WILLIMANTIC — Max Sinoway of North Haven foiled Madison’s first attempt at a Little League state championship, winning Tuesday to force a deciding game 24 hours later.
The wait turned out to be worth it.
Madison finally overcame Max Sinoway 6-0 behind a brilliant effort from Christian Kells, who hurled a five-hit shutout to secure a ticket to the New England Regional.
“We hit the ball tonight. It always helps when we have a masterful game from one of our aces,” Madison coach James Maynard said. “Christian Kells, he’s been one of our guys all summer.”
Said Kells: “I was tired, but I knew I just had to keep persevering through it all. That’s the game of baseball, you just have to keep playing.”
Kells offered no hints of fatigue, retiring 11 of the final 13 batters he faced. The southpaw needed only 83 pitches to get through six innings, striking out seven.
The reward for that masterful outing is a trip to Bristol for the regional tournament, beginning Sunday against the Vermont state champion. Meanwhile, Max Sinoway’s summer has come to a close.
“We had a great run,” coach Angelo Romano said. “Nobody expected this. … We sure made North Haven proud. We put North Haven on the map, for sure.”
Max Sinoway was hoping to carry the momentum from its 6-4 victory over Madison into Wednesday’s winner-take-all final, but a third-inning outburst proved decisive. Kells sparked a two-out rally when he doubled off right-hander Chris Cretella. Paul Calandrelli doubled in the game’s first run two batters later, and two more runners came around to score on an infield single by Nicholas Maynard.
With a 3-0 lead in hand, Kells went into cruise control. Overpowering hitters with his fastball, he allowed only four baserunners over the final four innings.
“We knew not many people get to have a second chance. We had that privilege,” Kells said. “We just had to go out there and take it. This game was the one that really counted.”
Madison came through with help from shortstop Chase Geremia, who socked a two-run homer over the right-center field fence in the fifth to increase the lead to 5-0. Kells added an RBI double in the sixth as part of his three-hit night, while Nicholas Maynard went 2-for-2 with a walk.
“Yesterday we played these guys, we had a rough outing,” James Maynard said. “We had a bunch of errors, which is not us. So, we said we have to work for each other, and we just have to come out and do the job. We did it. We did it.”
The coach credited the program’s challenging District 9 schedule for preparing his team for the state tournament.
“Our section is incredibly tough,” he said. “We got tested by Wethersfield and Mystic there. These boys came in battle-tested. They weren’t scared of anybody. Even when we lost that game yesterday, it was nothing but positive stuff coming from us.
“I’m just super proud. I’ve been with these guys for four summers now, the same group of kids. They work their butts off and deserve everything they get.”
Madison 6, Max Sinoway 0
MADISON 003 021 — 6 8 0
MAX SINOWAY 000 000 — 0 5 0
Batteries: M — Christian Kells (W) and Paul Calandrelli; MS — Chris Cretella (L), Nick Romano (5) and Jaden Wells.