Needing just a win to qualify for the Class LL state playoffs, the Fairfield Prep team struggled for more than a week.

Then the Jesuits rose to the challenge of a rival and, perhaps, the best team in the state.

Prep scored three runs in the first inning and held on for a 5-3 win over the state's second-ranked team, Notre Dame-West Haven, on Monday at Alumni Diamond.

"We've been sitting on seven wins for over a week," Prep coach Rudy Mauritz said. "We didn't bring up the subject today, and the guys were a tad looser."

Prep snapped a three-game losing streak, improving to 8-7. Starting pitcher Brett Young tossed five scoreless innings, just two days removed from pitching two innings in a blowout loss to Daniel Hand.

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"He did a good job," Mauritz said of Young.

Kyle Mollo closed the game, throwing 1 2/3 innings, pitching Prep out of a jam in the seventh inning. The Jesuits qualified for states for the third straight year.

"Mollo gave us a gutty performance," he said. "He manned-up and got the outs we needed."

Sophomore Shawn Blake had a two-RBI triple in the first, and David Gerics singled home a run as well, as the Jesuits put up a three-spot, all with two outs off ND starter Matt Elia.

"They're going to score their runs, they're a good hitting team," Mauritz said. "It's easier for us to be aggressive and play our game when we're ahead."

Mauritz also believes his club rose to the competitive challenge of playing both one of the state's top teams, but also an SCC-Quinnipiac Division rival.

"When we're playing our biggest rivals, our guys pick up their intensity... in all sports," Mauritz said. "When we play those teams that are really good ... our guys have a way of playing their best."

ppickens@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/pickensfcsports