KILLINGWORTH — Heading into his team’s Section 3 Little League game against Madison, Mystic coach Jeff Joyce believed his team would need to play an exceptional game to win.
A year ago, both teams met in the 11-10 Section 3 tournament and most of the players from those teams moved to the 12-under division this year. In the 11-10 Section 3 tournament in 2018, the teams split with Madison winning 11-2 and then Mystic advancing to the Section final and beating Madison 2-1.
“Because we played against most of the Madison players last year we know how good they are,” Joyce said. “We came into the game today with a lot of respect for them.”
On Saturday, Joyce got the exceptional performance he hoped for, especially with pitching and defense. Liam Joyce, the coach’s son, went the distance, struck out six and allowed four hits and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to lead Mystic to a 4-0 win at Sheldon Park in game 2 of the double-elimination Section 3 tournament.
The Mystic defense was led by Hayden Chappel who was busy at shortstop producing six outs in the game.
Mystic advanced to the Section 3 championship game on Monday at Sheldon Park at 5:30 p.m. Mystic will play the winner of Sunday’s matchup between Madison and Wethersfield at Sheldon Park at 11 a.m. Mystic defeated Wethersfield 8-0 in the first game of Section 3.
“We’ve been telling our kids that you face more experienced teams as you get deeper in the tournament,” Joyce said. “Madison is very talented and experienced, and it’s a cliché’, but it comes down to pitching and defense to beat a team of that caliber. Our defense and pitching came through today.
“Hayden Chappel played spectacular for us at shortstop, our first baseman Jack DeLabry made some great plays and (third baseman) Dylan Joyce (another son of the coach) made some good plays too. Liam had a typical game on the mound and was effective changing up his pitches, keeping Madison players off balance. It’s great to get to another Section final.”
Hits were also hard to come by for Mystic with Madison pitchers Chase Geremia, Johnny Reh, Christian Kells and Paul Calandrelli combining to only allow four hits.
Mystic took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on Liam Joyce’s sacrifice fly to center field. Mystic added two runs in the fifth inning on Madison miscues. With Finn Eck on second and Trace Morales on first, Griffin Pollard hit a grounder to shortstop but the throw to second base was high and went into center field allowing Eck to score and Morales to advance to third base. A wild pitch allowed Morales to make it 3-0.
Eck produced the 4-0 final in the sixth inning with a run-producing sacrifice fly to center field.
Madison’s best chance to score came in the fifth inning when pinch-hitters Morris Selman and Alex Modica singled to put runners on first and second with one out. But Liam Joyce went on to strike out Gavin Doyle and Kells grounded out to first base to end the threat.
“Today I was trying to put the ball in certain spots in the strike zone,” Liam Joyce said. “I was throwing high fastballs and my off-speed pitches low. When I pitch I always try to mix it up and I was able to do that today and keep them off balance.
“I’ve had some good games but this is definitely one of my best games of the season.”
Madison manager James Maynard hopes for a rematch with Mystic in the final.
“Madison’s pitcher controlled us the entire game,” Maynard said. “Every play matters at this level and when you make a mistake, a team like Mystic will take advantage of it. Hopefully we’ll get to the final and have another chance to face them.”