Print this story

Northwestern a win away from first baseball state title

POSTED June 07, 2013
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

The Northwestern baseball coaching staff is all smiles after the final out in Tuesday's 8-5 victory over Holy Cross in the Class M semifinals. Jimi Phillips went the distance and struck out seven and Mike Jeffko had three hits for top seeded Northwestern, which faces No. 11 St. Joseph for the title Saturday afternoon.

Northwestern a win away from first baseball state title

WINSTED - The Northwestern Regional baseball team has racked up 23 wins in what has been a great season, if it gets to 24 it will be a historic one.

The top-seeded Highlanders (23-1) have survived and advanced all the way to the Class M state championship game and will go for the school’s first baseball state title on Saturday against No. 11 St. Joseph (19-5)at 3:30 at Palmer Field in Middletown. Northwestern will be playing for a baseball state title for the second time in school history. The Highlanders lost the 1973 Class S state title game to Shepaug.

The Highlanders are the first Berkshire League team to play for a baseball state title since Thomaston won the Class S title in 2008.

Northwestern has won its first four playoff games by a total of six runs, including three straight one-run victories before an 8-5 triumph over No. 5 Holy Cross on Tuesday night in the Class M semifinals at the Beehive. The Highlanders survived No. 33 Plainville, 7-6, in 10 innings in the first round and then needed nine innings to knock off No. 16 Stonington, 6-5, in the second round. Northwestern won its third-straight one-run tournament game in the quarterfinals, outlasting No. 8 Northwest Catholic, 4-3.

Winning tight ballgames is something the Highlanders have done throughout the season, you can't win your first 19 games of the season without surviving a few close calls. A big reason why Northwestern has been so clutch is the experience it picked up from last season.

It was a painful lesson, but one that is paying off this season as the Highlanders are a win away from a state title. Last season Northwestern went 16-4, won the Berkshire League and entered the Class M tournament as the No. 5 seed and was bounced in the first round, 3-0, by Bacon Academy.

"This year we have a little more experience, we have almost everybody back from last year," Northwestern coach Tom Germano said. "We said from the start we are in it to win it, that's been our motto. We have good pitching, timely hitting and have been able to put it together when it counts."

It will count for everything Saturday when Zach August gets the start for Northwestern. Jimi Phillips went the distance to pick up the win in the semifinals and will be available for some limited relief duty and then it would be all hands on deck after that if necessary.

"We are feeling good," Northwestern first baseman Connor Guiheen said. "We are just staying focused on the game but at the same time we want to stay loose."

Staying loose hasn't been a problem for the Highlanders this season according to Coach Tom Germano, who is in his 10th year at Northwestern and taking his team to the state final for the first time. In fact being loose has been a strength for the Highlanders this season and you could see it against Holy Cross even when the Crusaders were starting to rally back from an 8-1 deficit.

"We've been in this situation before and nobody panics," Germano said. "It's a good team, a loose team and when they get breaks they capitalize on them." 

St. Joseph split its last six regular season games and won its first two tournament games against Prince Tech and Kaynor Tech by a combined 30-2 score. The Cadets then knocked off No. 3 North Branford, 4-3, and advanced to the title game with a 7-3 victory over No. 10 Montville in the first game of the semifinal doubleheader at the Beehive.

For more from John Nestor click here