Moosup - Caroline Taber first started pitching when she was a member of Mystic Little League's 9-10-year-old softball all-star team.
At the time, there was a lack of pitching and everyone was asked to try the position. Taber, formerly a first baseman, gave it a shot.
"She struck out 15 and still lost because she walked five or something like that," Taber's coach and father Tom Taber said. "It was the first time she ever pitched a game."
Taber, now a 14-year-old incoming freshman at Fitch High School, never stopped pitching, either.
She helped lead Mystic's Junior League team to the Section II state championship Wednesday night with a commanding 18-strikeout performance in a 3-0 victory over Brooklyn-Killingly. She allowed only a seventh-inning single to fellow pitcher Alexa Pearson.
Mystic advanced to the state championship series against Fairfield beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday in Orange. The best-of-three series will continue at 2 p.m. Sunday with a third game, if necessary, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Taber was a member of the 11-12-year-old Mystic Little League team which won the Section II title a year ago.
The 11-12-year-old team, with winning pitcher Jayden Delaporta, took the Section II title again this year. Delaporta was on the 9-10-year-old team with Taber when the two learned to pitch.
"We learned to pitch together," Taber said of Delaporta. "We taught ourselves."
"She's like that with everything she's ever touched," Tom Taber said of his daughter picking up pitching so quickly. "Irish step-dancing, basketball. Everything. What'd she throw today, 10 balls the whole night?"
Taber made things easier for herself with a two-run home run in the third inning, breaking a scoreless tie. The ball hit the top of the center field fence and bounced over, scoring teammate Jackie Lewis ahead of her for a 2-0 lead.
Mystic scored again in the fourth for the 3-0 lead when No. 9 hitter Haley Flax laid down a successful squeeze bunt to score pinch runner Lauren Szczesny.
Taber, meanwhile, struck out 12 of the first 13 batters she faced. The only exception was an error by Taber herself in the second inning, when she picked up a ground ball and overthrew first base. The pitcher then retired 13 straight hitters before walking Sabrina Brunelle with two outs in the sixth.
Taber was pitching to backup catcher Katherine Georgetti after regular catcher Olivia Knotts was hit it the hand by a bat earlier in the tournament, Tom Taber said.
Previously a student at Cutler Middle School, Taber said she's looking forward to playing for the high school program next year. She calls Fitch senior pitcher Alana Luzzio "a giant inspiration to me."
Lewis started at shortstop last year for the Fitch varsity, replacing two-time Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year Brianna Turgeon, now at Fordham University. Lewis said it was intimidating at first to find herself in that situation.
Lewis said she expects Taber to make an impact on the high school team sooner than later.
"Every year she gets even better," Lewis said. "I'm so impressed by it."
Pearson allowed just three Mystic hits, two bunt singles and the home run to Taber, finishing with eight strikeouts and six walks.