Mystic gets all the pitching it needs and then some, captures District 10 Little League title
Groton — The last matchup between these two teams featured Mystic's Trace Morales on the mound for 5.1 no-hit innings.
The 12-year-old Morales, who dominated the District 10 Little League baseball proceedings which culminated with Sunday's championship game at Calvin Burrows Field — he hit two three-run homers on the Fourth of July — is 6-foot-1.
"We faced Trace twice and he's almost impossible to hit," East Lyme manager Kurt Hayes said. "Then they come back with their No. 2 ... and he's a great pitcher."
This was Dylan Joyce's turn. Joyce, throwing darts for fastballs along with a sweeping curve — black-to-black, his manager and father Jeff Joyce called the curve, for its tendency to touch both sides of the strike zone — pitched a three-hitter Sunday as Mystic won the district Little League baseball (ages 10-12) title 7-1 over East Lyme.
Mystic advanced to the Section 3 state tournament beginning Friday in Killingworth.
"We were in line and he said something to me," Jeff Joyce said of Dylan, one of his twin sons who play on the team. "He said, 'I didn't get too many strikeouts. But he threw himself out of trouble. He seemed to make quality pitches at crucial times.
"I've been preaching to our players about mental toughness. Dylan buckled down and showed some mental toughness. I'm really proud of him."
Mystic led 1-0 on an RBI single by Joyce in the second, scoring brother Liam, who doubled to lead off the inning. In the second, Mystic extended the lead on a line shot home run over the right-center field fence by Morales — the only time East Lyme pitched to him, surrounded by three intentional walks.
East Lyme narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the fourth, scoring on a passed ball. With runners on second and third and two outs, however, Dylan Joyce struck out the final batter of the inning looking on a curveball.
Joyce struck out two, but both ended innings and he also went to one knee to make a stop, throwing from down on the ground to get the final out of the third.
Mystic struck for five runs in the sixth, taking advantage of four hits, an error, two bunts, a two-run double by Griffin Pollard and a sacrifice fly from Hayden Chappell.
Liam Joyce and Tommy Rogers had two hits each for Mystic.
"We're expecting to go to sectionals and advance, go to states and advance ... that's not being brash," Jeff Joyce said.
Joyce, once the Fitch baseball coach and a former Division I pitcher at the University of Hartford, said he spends a lot of time in the yard working on mechanics with his two boys, whom he calls "pretty intense, pretty sensitive kids."
He said Liam has actually got the best curveball he's seen from a Little Leaguer.
He calls Morales "a freak of nature."
"(The other kids would be) other teams' No. 1s," Joyce said. "We can go 8-10 guys (pitching) if we have to, but the guys at the top are so good."
"I put my hand in the dirt ... it gives me an extra good grip," Dylan Joyce, headed to the seventh grade at Cutler Middle School, said of his strategy for remaining confident in the clutch. "I do it again if I'm struggling. ... It feels good (to be headed to the state tournament). We made it there last year, too."
Chris Cambi, Noah Farrior and Ryan Wargo had hits for East Lyme and Cambi, the shortstop, was a part of two double plays, one in the first inning and one in the fourth, which kept the score close until Mystic's five-run seventh.
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