By Rick Menning
When the East region champions and Connecticut state champions walked off the field for the final time at Everest Park on Friday afternoon, they carried with them not only lasting memories but major accomplishments.
And that's the right word: major!
After their friendly game against Texas had concluded in Kirkland, Washington, it was time to start packing for the trip back to Milford.
And to say these teenage athletic sensations left their mark on those two diamonds in the Great Northwest would be an understatement.
The Milford Junior Division All-Stars were part of what many are calling the greatest game in Junior League Softball World Series history: a 3-2, 10-inning setback to Michigan that showcased everything that makes a girls' softball game -- or any youth sports contest for that matter -- an incredible experience.
Fight, heart, willpower and determination; it was all evident in this game right down to the last pitch. There were no losers in that encounter (see the game recap below); just one team advancing and the other holding their heads high for so many positive reasons.
The Milford girls who played in this prestigious World Series tournament are forever a part of history. ESPN+ believes that sensational game between Connecticut and Michigan will be the gold standard that all other teams and games will have to aspire to reach.
Despite being eliminated, the East Region ballplayers can rightfully boast that they are not only forever members of the 2022 Elite Eight as one of the best eight teams in the world (yes, the world) but also members of the Super Six as one of the best six teams in the United States.
Milford joins Michigan, South Carolina, Nevada, Texas, and host Washington with that latter distinction.
So as these outstanding athletes and ballplayers return to their normal lives and routines in Milford in the coming days, they can always cherish their week in Kirkland, Washington at the Junior League Softball World Series.
But there's one more thing that the Junior girls have on their to-do list, and that's cheering on the Milford Major Division All-Stars starting on Wednesday at the Little League Softball World Series in Greenville, North Carolina.
Here is a rundown of all of Milford's games in the Junior League Softball World Series:
The historic game: Michigan 3, Milford 2 (10 innings): Maya Fallon-Silva ripped a solid single to center field to score Sarah Donegan as the East Region champs tied the game at 1-1 and set the stage for another hour and a half of pure drama. Fallon-Silva also raced home on a Michigan error in the top of the ninth inning to put her team ahead 2-1.
The Jenison squad had taken a 1-0 lead in its half of the first inning and nothing changed until the top of the sixth via Fallon-Silva's RBI hit.
Both Fallon-Silva and Abby Corris had a pair of hits for Milford, which received stellar pitching from Madyson Bull. In a complete-game showing, Bull struck out 11 and walked only one while throwing 118 pitches just hours before her 15th birthday.
Defensively, Milford turned a tremendous double play in the fourth inning when shortstop Charlotte Doyle grabbed a sharply hit line drive and threw over to first baseman Alyssa Joye to double off the Michigan runner. Second baseman Emily Ross also had several good fielding plays in the contest.
Game 4: Milford 18, Curacao 0: Madyson Bull ripped a triple, double and single for a four-RBI game in the decisive showing against the Latin America champions. She has amassed 10 hits in 13 at-bats during the tournament thus far.
Cassie Rodriguez propelled a two-run double all the way to the fence in left field, and Emily Roos added her second hit in as many at-bats, as the Connecticut state champions erupted for eight runs in the second inning.
Sophia Scarpa also doubled as 11 Milford batters came to the plate in the pivotal inning. Maya Fallon-Silva came through with a pair of RBI on a fielder's choice and a single, and Alyssa Joye reached base three times and had a sacrifice fly RBI to center field. She also walked in a run with the bases loaded.
Defensively, outfielder Sarah Donegan raced to her left to chase down a sinking liner for a great catch in the fourth inning. And in the circle, Bull struck out five of the first seven Curacao batters she faced in the game
Game 3: Texas 15, Milford 12: Despite two incredible home runs by Madyson Bull -- one a monster blast that easily cleared the second "green monster-type" fence in right field -- the East Region champions were outslugged in a nearly three-hour contest.
This game had offensive fireworks galore, but it was Bull's blasts -- accounting for two of the four home runs hit in the entire World Series to that point -- that topped an abundance of highlight-reel rips.
Connecticut's biggest run production came in the fourth inning, when 11 batters marched to the plate during the five-run frame. The onslaught was highlighted by -- believe it or not -- an infield RBI double by Olivia Gregory. whose high pop fly fell between three Texas infielders as she raced to second base.
Abby Corris entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the third inning and proceeded to deliver three straight singles as part of her four plate appearances. She also joined Bull as each pitched three innings.
Emily Roos reached base four times with two singles and two walks, while Alyssa Joye contributed three consecutive hits in her five at-bats. Pinch-hitter Sophia Scarpa also had a great day at the plate with a double and single, and Hana Beauregard reached base three times via walks.
In all, the Milford girls unleashed a 16-hit attack but in just wasn't enough as the Columbus squad scored in every inning but the second.
Defensively, Maya Fallon-Silva made a diving catch to end the Southwest champions' seven-run third inning.
Game 2: Las Vegas, Nevada 9, Milford 0: Facing a team that dominated its West Region and outscored its opponents 97-1, the Milford, Connecticut squad had a very tough outing and was held to only one hit.
The East Region champions kept the contest relatively close and trailed 1-0 after two innings and 3-0 after four innings. However, Las Vegas struck for six runs over the final three frames to seal the win.
Madyson Bull came through with a single in the sixth inning for Milford, which fell victim to an outstanding 12-strikeout performance by Las Vegas pitcher Ava Koenig.
Abby Corris, Erika Fabian and Hana Beauregard reached base via walks, but that was pretty much the extent of Milford's offense other than for Bull's hit.
The Nevada girls remain undefeated, while Milford suffered its first setback in All-Star tournament competition.
Game 1: Milford 11, Czech Republic 0: Mount St. Helens didn't erupt in nearby Skamania County, but the Milford, Connecticut bats certainly did during a 10-run third inning at Everest Park in Kirkland, Washington.
The East Region and Connecticut state champions -- sparked by a two-out, nobody on base triple by Madyson Bull during that pivotal inning -- smashed through a scoreless deadlock as Bull's blast to the fence started a nine-hit parade with 13 more batters (16 in all that inning) stepping up to the plate.
Meanwhile, Milford All-Star pitcher Abby Corris struck out seven and walked only one to achieve a complete-game two-hitter. She gave up both hits in the fifth and final inning, and at one stretch retired 13 of 14 Czech Republic batters.
Corris also helped her own cause with a two-run single scoring both Bull and Emily Roos, who had singled after Bull's triple.
That huge third inning was also highlighted by extremely clutch pinch-hit RBI singles off the bats of Alyssa Joye, Olivia Gregory and Charlotte Doyle. Joye later followed her pinch hit with another single to lead off the fourth inning.
Bull added an RBI single to go along with her three-bagger in that inning alone and finished with a perfect 3-for-3 day at the plate when factoring in her leadoff single to center to start the game.
Sophia Scarpa also got in on the fun with a tricky bouncer that eluded the Czech Republic second baseman and rolled into the outfield for a two-run hit. Sarah Donegan also connected for a huge run-scoring single.
In all Milford ripped six consecutive singles during the third-inning outburst.
Manager Margaret Bull's squad also showcased its defensive talents during the nationally televised game on ESPN+.
In the top of the second inning, third baseman Maya Fallon-Silva raced in to make a great grab for an unassisted putout on a low-liner bunt attempt. She hauled in the ball inches from the dirt.
First baseman Cassie Rodriguez and shortstop Madyson Bull also flashed the leather with great line-drive catches. Rodriguez and Bull easily snared the blistering shots that came their way for big-time outs.
Great fourth-inning glovework was provided by Olivia Gregory, who made a super running catch in left field.