KILLINGWORTH, Conn. — The way the Mystic Little League 10-12 All-Stars dominated teams en route to Monday's Section 3 baseball final, some believed Madison needed nothing less than a perfect game to have any chance to stay in the game, let alone win.
Mystic had gone on a 7-0 run to the District 10 championship, outscoring the opposition 70-10. It shut out Wethersfield and Madison in two sectional games prior to Monday.
And with ace Trace Morales, a 6-1 right-hander with a fastball and curve, on the mound, Mystic looked unbeatable.
But, as Mystic manager Jeff Joyce summed things up in his best English-teacher description, Mystic was hit "with a perfect storm."
Madison did produce half a perfect game to take a 6-0 lead in the top of the fourth until Mother Nature gave Mystic a reprieve. Thunderstorms and lightning halted the game, and the teams will pick up action 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the point of postponement at Sheldon Park.
Unfortunately for Mystic, Morales exceeded the 40-pitch count and cannot continue. Also, Madison ace Johnny Reh, who throws as hard as Morales, threw 37 pitches, which allows him to continue to 85 pitches if he can with no days of rest.
Reh retired all nine Mystic batters he faced, striking out four. When Mystic hit the ball, Madison turned in three superior defensive plays: a running over-the-shoulder catch in left, a groundball up the middle and a chopper to second base.
"We had everything that could go wrong go wrong and they had everything that could go right go right," Joyce said. "We came in feeling pretty good even in the unfair winner-take-all set up, with us coming in 2-0 and Madison 1-1. Reh certainly has an overwhelming fastball, and the fact they hit Trace was kind of surprising."
While Madison, which used three pitchers, including Reh, in a 4-0 loss to Mystic on Saturday, was flawless, Mystic made two errors the first inning that allowed Madison to score an unearned run without a hit.
"I don't want to say the first-inning errors set the tone, but they tilted the game in an unfavorable direction," Joyce said. "Those plays have to be made."
Morales struck out three in the second, but Madison started to make quality contact to score five in the third. Reh doubled to left to lead off the frame. A runner reached on a strikeout that was not caught. Four hits followed, including a triple by Nick Maynard and a double by Paul Calendretti.
Down 6-0, Mystic was set down by three Reh strikeouts on 12 pitches in the bottom of the third. Morales responded with two strikeouts in the fourth to give him nine in 3⅔ innings when the first lightning strike was spotted by umpires, signaling an automatic 30-minute delay at 6:30 p.m. The third inning was played under dark skies as thunder could be heard.
Torrential rain and many additional lightning strikes stopped the game before the 30-minute waiting period ended.
Joyce realizes Mystic is up against a challenge, but he pointed to the fact that some have accomplished great feats against long odds, and he said this Mystic team is special and is capable of coming back.
"I'm a spiritual person," Joyce said. "Everything happens for a reason. Noah had a flood but there was a covenant at the end. Who's to say we can't find our rainbow?"