EAST HAMPTON, Conn. — All season long, the Mystic Little League baseball 9-11 All-Stars would get a spark of some sort, and there’d be a snowball effect up and down the lineup: The hits would come in bunches, and so would the runs.
“It’d be contagious,” manager Jason Pollard said.
Unfortunately for Mystic, that spark never came in the finals of the double-elimination state tournament.
Westport shut down the Mystic 11s in two straight games to capture the state championship, securing the title with a 10-0 win on Friday at Seamster Park in a game stopped after four innings by the mercy rule.
On Thursday, Westport edged Mystic, 1-0, in a nail-biter that went nine innings. Mystic had just one hit in each game.
“The bats were just cold, and the kids got down,” Pollard said after Friday’s season-ending loss.
“As a team we tried to mix it up today and be more aggressive, thought that might liven ’em up. But it didn’t happen for us. I mean, let’s face it, their pitching’s pretty good, too. But we could hit them. Our bats just went quiet.”
On the heels of Rhys Jamali’s heroic performance the previous day (he allowed one hit, no walks and struck out 14 in eight innings), Ben Cukier delivered another gem for Westport: He only gave up a single to Hayden Chappel in the fifth inning, struck out four and walked none.
Westport manager David Goldshore said Cukier was pitching for the first time since taking a comebacker to the face against Simsbury on Tuesday.
“He bounced back,” Goldshore said. “His location was superb today, equal to the job that Rhys did yesterday. … We’ve had great pitching. We’ve really pitched well and played good defense the last month and a half.”
Westport made one fielding error in the two games against Mystic.
Goldshore’s son, Jake, got Westport on the board Friday, driving in a run with an infield single along the third-base line in the first inning.
Westport led 4-0 after three before blowing it open in the fourth, scoring six runs on three hits and four walks. Two of the hits were big ones, and came in back-to-back at-bats: Jake Goldshore’s bases-loaded triple to the right-field corner, and Jared Lessing’s two-run homer over the left-center-field fence, the only home run of the tournament.
Cukier scored the game-ending run on a wild pitch.
“They’re a really great program,” Pollard said of Westport. “Fairfield County. The [12-year-olds] went to the World Series five years ago. They’re very good.”
After the game, Pollard had a long talk with his team in right field.
“I’m very proud of them,” he said. “We’ve been hangin’ out for two months now, with a great group of coaches and a great group of players, and these players have grown so much from the beginning of practices in June until now. But not just as players; they’ve grown as friends, people and, honestly, I’m just thankful to be a part of it.
“The kids are upset right now, but I think tomorrow they’ll hold their heads up and realize it’s a great accomplishment. Because that’s what this is. It’s a great accomplishment. It hurts today, but tomorrow they’ll realize what they’ve done — together, as a team.”
The manager had one more thing to add:
“There’s  towns in Connecticut, and we’re No. 2. That’s nothing to sneeze at.”