For a while, it looked like Montville American might just knock off the Mystic Junior softball team in the championship round of the District 10 Little League tournament Friday night at Rossie Field.
Montville was making contact off Mystic pitcher Caroline Taber, taking a 1-0 lead after two innings.
And Mystic was struggling a bit at the plate, as six of the first seven batters went down in order.
But Mystic struck for four runs in the third inning, another in the fourth and five more in the fifth to run away with the district title, 10-1.
Shortstop Jackie Lewis delivered the big blow in the third inning, a two-run double that sailed over the center fielder’s head and hit the fence on the fly. It was a shot and gave Mystic the lead for good.
“I was really nervous, but I knew if I just did wanted I worked on I could hit the ball and I did,” Lewis said. “I tried to finish my swing and keep my foot in. It finally paid off.”
Haley Flax led off the third with a walk and Nalissa Amar (3 for 4) singled to right field as Flax hustled to third.
Amar later took second without a throw from the Montville catcher.
Lewis followed with her blast after falling behind 0-2 in the count. She did not let the count become a distraction as Mystic took a 2-1 lead.
“I try not to think about it because if I overthink it, I don’t do well,” Lewis, who will be sophomore at Fitch High in the fall, said. “I just try not to think about it at all. It felt really good when I hit it. I think as a team we came together and played really well tonight.”
Mystic manager Thomas Taber said the hit was a big one.
“We’ve been waiting for Jackie to hit a few bombs like that,” Taber said. “She a really good hitter and a really clutch hitter.”
Mystic added two more runs in the inning as Lewis and Taber scored on an error in the Montville infield.
Montville looked like it might get back in the game in the top of the fourth. Montville had runners on second and third with one out. But Taber got a strikeout as catcher Olivia Knotts caught a quick foul tip on the third strike.
“Olivia has been Caroline’s catcher for four years,” Taber said. “She does a great job back there. She does a good job of framing. She’s a great catcher.”
Taber struck out the next batter to end the threat. Mystic added another run in the fourth on a RBI single by Lewis (3 for 4, three RBIs) that scored Taylor Kenyon (2 for 3) to make it 5-1.
Mystic put the game away with five runs in the bottom of the fifth. Taber and Katherine Georgetti (2 for 4) opened the inning with singles and Mackenzie Aldridge reached on an error to load the bases.
A sacrifice fly to left field by Knotts scored Taber from third. Katie Hodgkinson reached on an error and Georgetti scored. Kenyon singled to the outfield and an error allowed the ball to roll nearly to the fence.
Pinch runner Olivia Watts and Aldridge scored. Lauren Szczesny singled to left scoring Kenyon.
Taber, who was named the most outstanding player for Mystic, earned the victory. She allowed six hits, but pretty much kept Montville in check after the first inning. Taber, who will be a freshman at Fitch in the fall, finished with eight strikeouts.
“I was mainly keeping it outside because all of their batters were far back in the box and to the outside of the box so they couldn’t reach the outside pitches,” Taber said. “I was really proud of our team tonight. In the beginning we were a little shaky. We came together and played well. Every year is different, a different challenge.”
Taber was also 2 for 3 at the plate including a triple to right field against a shift by the Montville outfield. The Montville right fielder was playing nearly in center field. Montville center field Taylor Lavalle, who was 2 for 3, was named her team’s most outstanding player.
Mystic will now play in the four-team Section 2 tournament on July 21 against the District 11 champion. The Section 2 tournament will be played in Moosup.
The following article was submitted by Tom Taber, manager of the Mystic Junior Softball Team.