East Lyme gets in the act with third youth baseball title
Waterford - Tie game in the bottom of the fifth Saturday night, District 10 title waiting. And all they needed, as East Lyme coach Greg Toback reminded his players, was to follow that timeless baseball advice: get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in.
Gus Dodge got on.
Evan Kluge got 'em over.
Chris Malcom got 'em in.
And soon, East Lyme, that suddenly resurgent baseball town, celebrated the Little League District 10 title (ages 11-12) with a 6-5 win over Mystic in the championship game of the best-of-three series at Waterford South.
East Lyme plays host to the state Division 3 tournament beginning Wednesday night and is scheduled to play Thursday.
"We haven't been a team of one or two players," Toback said, following his team's victory lap. "We had two key injuries before this tournament and the kids didn't blink. Gus got on with the perfect bunt and that started everything."
Winning pitcher Nathan Diaz, who entered a 5-5 game in the fifth, struck out the game's final batter with the tying run at third.
Diaz, who had three hits, a run scored and an RBI, also made the game's marquee defensive play with East Lyme trailing 2-0 in the third.
Mystic's Pacey Steele lined a potential sacrifice fly to Diaz in right. Diaz's throw to catcher Ethan Toback was in time to nab Giovanni Valentine and end the inning.
"Nathan was an infielder," Toback said. "I kind of knew we needed him in the outfield if we wanted to win this tournament. I talked to him about it. He took a day to process it. Then he embraced it and did a great job."
East Lyme took a 5-2 lead in bottom of the inning, following Diaz's defensive play. Two wild pitches, two stolen bases, two errors and run-scoring hits from Diaz and Kluge gave their team what felt like a comfortable lead.
Except that Mystic tied the game immediately. Andrew Kerst's solo homer to right-center preceded Brett Noreika's two-run shot to left-center and suddenly it was 5-5.
It stayed that way until the fifth when Malcom's sacrifice fly scored Dodge.
East Lyme's 11-year-old team also won a District 10 title Saturday. They join the town's 13s who won the Babe Ruth District 6 championship.
"The pendulum has swung," Toback said. "East Lyme is keeping its top athletes playing baseball again."
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