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Waterford - East Lyme finally busted through a familiar roadblock in its path to a state tournament appearance.
With a 6-2 victory on Thursday, East Lyme not only won the District 6 Babe Ruth 13-year-old tournamenet title but also beat a nemesis in Waterford, making the accomplishment even sweeter.
Since Little League days, East Lyme has stumbled in tournament play against Waterford, which won a previous meeting in pool play in 10 innings.
"We've been playing this group for the last four years," East Lyme manager Joe Bragaw said. "This is the first time that we broke through. We have a lot of good players on our team. They played well as a team and stayed loose.
"Waterford is a great team. ... It feels good, especially to win on their turf."
Matt Malcom carried the East Lyme attack, accounting for all three hits including two doubles. He drove in three runs in a tournament game played at the Waterford Babe Ruth complex.
"We came in with a lot of confidence and we did it," Malcom said. "We beat them finally."
East Lyme starter Doyle Connolly battled his way through six strong innings, allowing six hits and doing his best work with players on base. Waterford stranded 12 runners, including eight in the last three innings.
"Waterford-East Lyme has been a rivalry since I was born," Waterford manager Dan Santos said. "It's definitely one of those ones that you want to win. But they're a good team."
East Lyme's opportunistic offense delivered in the clutch.
In the first inning, Malcom doubled down the left field line, scoring Dev Ostrowski who reached on an error to lead off the game. Jacob Diaz's groundout pushed the lead to 2-0.
Two walks, a sacrifice bunt and Ostrowski's groundout made it 3-0 in the second.
East Lyme relied on three walks, a wild pitch and Malcom's two-out double to increase the lead to 6-0 in the fourth.
Malcom, a catcher, also played well behind the plate, throwing out Peter Turello trying to steal second base in the first.
"He's been great all year," Bragaw said. "He's caught every inning of the tournament. He's hit well. Between him and Connolly, they both came through big. All the kids played relaxed. It was a pretty exciting win for them."
Connolly danced in and out of trouble but dodged the big inning. Liam Spellman's sacrifice fly in the fourth and Bobby Silva's single in the sixth generated Waterford's runs.
Bragaw considered pulling Connolly on two different occasions but stuck with him for six innings.
"He was still pitching great," Bragaw said. "He was a on batter-by-batter basis. But how can you take out a kid that says, 'you can't take me out, coach, I want to stay in?'''
East Lyme moves on to the state tournament, which opens play next Friday in Norwalk. Malcom feels good about his team's chances.
"We have a strong team," Malcom said. "I think we'll do well in the states."