WATERFORD — The Mystic Little League 11-12 All-Stars lost for the first time in the District 10 baseball tournament Thursday night.
Unfortunately for Mystic, it came in the best-of-three championship series at Patterson Field.
East Lyme scored seven runs in the third inning, highlighted by Connor Tukey’s two-run double, and held off Mystic, 11-8, to even the series at one game apiece. The deciding Game 3 is set for 6 p.m. Friday.
Mystic went down swinging, scoring once in the bottom of the fifth and three times in its final at-bat, the sixth.
“We’ve got a good group of guys that, even though they get down emotionally because they’re 12 years old, they just need that one little thing that kind of gets them over that hump to get the momentum going their way,” coach Lloyd Morales said. “And that’s what they did today.
“They don’t quit. I’ve never seen these guys quit.”
That “one little thing” was a big home run by catcher Payton Neale, a moon shot over the center-field fence to lead off the sixth. Patrick Lindy and Colin O’Leary later added RBI walks, but East Lyme’s seven-run third proved too much to overcome.
Mystic was sitting pretty early in the game. In the first, Jackson LaLima smashed an RBI double that hit the fence on one hop near the right-field corner, and Neale drove him in with hard single to center. Neale would ultimately score on an error and it was 3-0 Mystic.
And that’s when Mystic began to unravel. The culprit? Free passes.
East Lyme scored twice in the second without the benefit of a hit, using five walks to cut the lead to 3-2. In the third, East Lyme sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on four walks, two hits (Tukey’s double among them) and one hit batter.
When East Lyme’s third was over, it led 9-4.
“We just had issues with control on the mound,” said Morales, whose team didn’t walk another batter after the third. “You can’t expect to stay in the ballgame very long when you’re putting guys on base.”
East Lyme’s pitchers — it used five in the game — had trouble with free passes, too. They walked nine.
“It was tough,” coach Rob Tukey said. “That was a strike zone that pitchers had to really hit their spots.”
Connor Tukey earned the win on the mound, going 3 2/3 innings and allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits and seven walks. He struck out three.
In the fourth, Quinn Killoy hit a solo home run for East Lyme after it bounced out of a Mystic outfielder’s glove and over the fence to make it 10-4. East Lyme finished with seven hits.
LaLima, Neal, and Alex Starr each had two hits for Mystic, which had 10 overall. Sidhaarth Bulusu doubled and scored in the fifth.
Defensively, first baseman Trace Morales made a nice over-the-shoulder catch of a foul ball in the third inning; Lindy, at second base, made a fine backhanded stop of a grounder and threw the East Lyme runner out, also in the third; and LaLima made a nice snag of a line drive to his left at shortstop in the fourth.
In the deciding Game 3, Sebby DeCosta will start for East Lyme. DeCosta pitched an inning Thursday.
“We’re set well,” coach Tukey said. “Most of the kids on this team can pitch.”
Mystic, which is 6-1 in the tournament, will counter with Bulusu, its No. 3 pitcher.
“I think it’s gonna be pretty good,” Morales said. “It’s gonna be a slugfest.”