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Northwestern tops Holy Cross for spot in Class M finals

POSTED June 06, 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 tops Holy Cross for spot in Class M finals

NEW BRITAIN - Mike Jeffko had three hits and scored three runs and Jimi Phillips pitched a complete game to lead No. 1 Northwestern to an 8-5 victory over No. 5 Holy Cross on Tuesday night in the Class M semifinals at the Beehive.

The win moves the Highlanders (23-1) in the Class M state title game on Saturday at 3:30 at Palmer Field in Middletown where they will face No. 11 St. Joseph (19-5).

Jeffko started Northwestern's five-run second inning with a double and scored in the second, third and fifth innings as the Highlanders jumped out to an 8-1 lead and held on. 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.

"It was a great team effort, Jimi pitched a great game, really persevered and we were able to get the offense going and get ahead early," Jeffko said. "We've been able to get ahead early most of the year and all season long when we've been able to do that we can relax and when we play loose we are a pretty solid team."

Phillips struck out seven and was able to work out of trouble throughout the game. He did get into a jam in the sixth while nursing am 8-1 lead. Phillips hit two batters in the inning, the Highlanders dropped a foul pop up that should have been an out and the Crusaders added a bunt single to load the bases.

"I tried to stay composed and get ahead of hitters," Phillips said. "I had a few good innings, a few innings where I lost it and hit some guys, but we battled through."

Holy Cross got an RBI groundout and a pair of RBI singles to pull within 8-4 but the Crusaders managed just a two-out RBI single in the seventh and the game ended when Matt Cammett grounded out to Northwestern first baseman Connor Guiheen.

Phillips got to pitch most of the gamer with a big lead, something the Highlanders have been unaccustomed to in the tournament so far. Northwestern won its first three tournament games by one run, including one in 10 innings in the first round and an eight-inning game in the second round.

Winning the close ones 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. Northwestern has also survived some close calls in the tournament and a big reason why 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.

There have been some anxious moments so far in this season's tournament run, but nothing seems to get this version of the Highlanders down, and so far they have come out on top 23 times out of 24.

"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."

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