ORANGE, Conn. — The Mystic/Groton Junior All-Star Little League softball team showed Sunday it not only has top-tier talent, but it has depth too.
The strength of Mystic’s pitching and lineup depth was on display as the team won its second straight Junior state title after a completing a sweep of Section 1 champion Black Rock with a 12-6 win.
Mystic got a strong performance from No. 2 pitcher Jayden Delaporta and put up 12 runs despite the fact that slugger Caroline Taber walked five times.
“We have the best 1-2 (pitchers) I’ve ever seen,” Mystic/Groton coach Scott Delaporta. Delaporta filled in as manager for Tom Taber, who was unable to attend Sunday’s game. “They’ve pitched a bunch of travel (league), they’ve pitched in big games and both of them are fantastic.”
The younger Delaporta pitched all seven innings, allowed six runs (three earned) on seven hits, walked just one and struck out four.
While Delaporta mostly held Black Rock’s offense in check, Mystic/Groton gave her run support early.
With the score tied 1-1 after an inning and a half, Mystic took the lead for good in the bottom of the second inning.
Three singles and a fielder’s choice loaded the bases with one out.
Delaporta hit a ball deep enough to score the runner from third but a base-running miscue kept the run from coming home.
Taber walked in her next at bat to drive in a run but it was Brooke Arruda who did the most damage.
Arruda laced a single into center field and drove home two that put Mystic/Groton up 4-1 to salvage the bases-loaded situation.
“Usually, when you get a good hit you don’t feel it and I just hit the ball and ran,” Arruda said. “It (the pitch) was right down the middle (of the plate) so I just swung and hoped for the best and hit it right up the middle.”
Taber’s walk and Arruda’s subsequent single was part of a game long pattern. All five times Black Rock walked Taber, Arruda, the No. 4 hitter, followed with a single.
Arruda was 5-for-5 with the two RBIs and a run scored.
“Caroline’s (Taber) a really big part of our team. I’m glad I did my part for the team today,” Arruda said.
Mystic tacked on five more runs in the bottom the fourth inning, highlighted by a Mackenzie Aldridge’s RBI double, to take a 9-1 lead.
Black Rock scored three in the top of the fifth, but Mystic answered right back with three in the bottom of the frame.
A pair of unearned Black Rock runs in the top of the seventh brought the scored to its final of 12-6.
Mystic’s substitute players accounted for three of its 15 hits, drove in three runs and scored twice. Taylor Kenyon, who was the most prominent player off the bench, had a pair of RBI singles and a run scored.
“The depth of our lineup, any one of these kids can start, they can all hit,” Delaporta said. “We had some substitutes get big hits so they can do it. This is probably the best team I’ve been a part of.”
Eight players had a least one hit and not one Mystic/Groton player struck out during Sunday’s contest. Delaporta credited his team’s top to bottom hitting ability with the offseason work they did.
“That goes to Tom Taber,” he said. “He got the facility in North Stonington during the winter, he has the pitching machines firing all the time, he’s the guy.”
Nalissa Amar had two singles and scored twice.
It may have been the second straight state title for the Mystic/Groton Juniors but for the 13-year-old players on the team, including Arruda, it was their first ever state championship.
“It feels good,” she said. “I’ve been playing Little League all my life and I’ve never gotten this far before.”
Delaporta said the state title round had been a source of frustration for Mystic in the past and that winning a title was a huge boost for the 13-year- old players.
“It’s great,” he said. “The Juniors won the state championship last year. The 13 (year olds) lost in the state championship round three years in a row against Fairfield (in the 9-10 and 11-12 age groups).
Next up for the Juniors is the regional championship tournament is West Haven, Conn. Mystic/Groton’s first game has yet to be determined but the tournament starts Aug. 3.