New England champions might have made even more epic Little League softball history

Updated: Jul 30

By Rick Menning


BRISTOL, CT -- When the Milford Major Division Little League Softball All-Stars captured the New England Region championship in front of another near-capacity Connecticut side of the bleachers on Thursday afternoon, there is no doubt they made major hometown history with their accomplishment.

But did they also complete a stunning one-two World Series punch that resulted in epic history of international proportions?

New England champions and World Series-bound! The Milford Little League Softball All-Stars have a new designation to add to their status along with being Connecticut state champions! From left: Norah Bove, Manager Mike Bonanno, Nyla Jaser, Maddie Deldin, Coach Dave Rodriguez, Julia Scibek, Gabby Rodriguez, Leah Corris, Lily Stankevich, Ariella DiOrio, Emily Speringo, Maddy Bonanno, Riley Fagan-Davies, Chloe Capalbo, Coach Chris Capalbo and Sophia Horvack.

Although no day-by-day records are kept of such situations at Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the fact that Manager Mike Bonanno's squad achieved a World Series berth just 24 hours after the city's Junior Division Little League Softball All-Stars won the East Region is mind-boggling.

And perhaps record-setting!

For a Little League organization to win back-to-back regional titles and two World Series berths in as many days is extremely rare to say the least -- if it has ever been done at all.

On Wednesday, the Milford Little League Softball Junior Division All-Star team rallied from a 6-0 deficit to defeat Pennsylvania 8-6 and advance to the World Series in Kirkland, Washington.

Then, on Thursday, the Milford Little League Softball Major Division All-Star team blanked Colchester, Vermont 10-0 to rule over the New England Region and advance to its World Series in Greenville, North Carolina.



One would be hard pressed to find a situation anywhere in the world where that type of scenario played out.


Staggering numbers


Along with perhaps putting the finishes touches to a worldwide feat, the Milford Major Division softball squad definitely stands atop a very impressive number of All-Star teams that embarked on the New England Region journey starting with districts over the past month.

High-noon thriller! Spectators again showed up in amazing numbers to support the New England Region champion and Little League Softball World Series-bound Milford, Connecticut Major Division All-Stars as the girls celebrate their fantastic accomplishment.

"There's 2,500 teams from states throughout this region and we made it through (to the title) so that's amazing in itself," Bonanno said in the post-game press conference. "We just happen to be strong and we're playing really well right now."


Going for win No. 12


Could a highly anticipated match-up against rival Delmar, Maryland be in the cards when the Milford Major Division Little League Softball All-Stars (11-0) play their opening World Series game on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at Stallings Stadium?

The 1 p.m. showdown pits Milford against either the Central Division champions (Columbia, Missouri) or the Mid-Atlantic champions (Delmar, Maryland). Those teams play on Aug. 9 and the winner will play Milford.

The Delmar squad punched its ticket to Greenville with a 9-3 triumph over Delaware in Thursday's nightcap regional championship showdown at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center in Bristol.


Juniors face Czechs


Talk about an opening contest with an international flavor!

The Milford Junior Division Little League Softball All-Stars will go up against a team truly from across the globe as the East Region champions are matched up with Moravis, Czech Republic of the Europe-Africa Region on Sunday (July 31) in Kirkland, Washington.

The Milford Junior Division All-Stars and East Region champions arrive at the World Series in Washington. Taking a moment to relax from their long flight are (in no particular order) Hana Beauregard, Mady Bull, Charlotte Doyle, Sarah Donegan, Sophia Scarpa, Lilly Olmstead, Maya Fallon-Silva, Alyssa Joye, Cassie Rodriguez, Olivia Gregory, Erika Fabian, Abby Corris and Emily Roos.

First pitch in the ESPN+ nationally televised game from Everest Park is at 2 p.m.


An apple and a nap


What's the formula for success for Milford pitcher Sophia Horvack? How about eating a pre-game apple and taking a nap prior to the biggest game of the 13-year-old's career. Talk about a calm demeanor.

"I made sure I ate my apple (before the game)," said Horvack, who not only tossed a no-hitter but also improved to 3-0 inside the circle at the region. She allowed only three earned runs the entire tournament while striking out 14 batters and walking only two in helping to catapult her team to the World Series.

"She (also) took a nap in the pavilion," Bonanno revealed. "One of my coaches came up to me (Thursday morning) and said 'Sophia is taking a nap in the pavilion.' That's how relaxed she is ... that's who she is ... she's so calm."


Big-time blasts in Bristol


Inches.

That's all that separated Milford All-Star slugger Chloe Capalbo from an over-the-fence home run in the third inning of the New England Region championship game against Vermont.

The Connecticut state champions' clean-up hitter in the lineup had the fans on their feet as she smashed the ball more than 200 feet on a flight path directly to the base of the right-field fence. Her blast resulted in a triple but came oh so close to going over!

After sending an absolute missile to the base of the right-field fence more than 200 feet from home plate, Milford All-Star Chloe Capalbo rounds third before settling for a triple. Her blast came within inches of being a home run.

Then, to highlight Milford's six-run fourth inning, Ariella DiOrio powered another moon shot that landed well over the Vermont outfielder's head for a three-run double as the bases-clearing shot sailed deep into left field.

"Chloe and Ariella have been working so hard, and to see them do that today (Thursday) was just so awesome," Bonanno said. "They spend a lot of time in the (batting) cage, and you saw the results today. They had two huge hits to get us rolling."


Duo caps 'redemption tour'


For Gabby Rodriguez and Maddie Deldin, the title-clinching performance was especially sweet as the twosome were members of last year's Milford team that fell ever so short of its mission.

Manager Mike Bonanno referred to it as their "redemption tour."

"It's pretty cool to have Maddie by my side again ... and some of my best friends on the team over this season," said Rodriguez, who plays shortstop and is Milford's leadoff batter. "It's really special to be back here (in Bristol). It was a heartbreaker losing last year so just getting back here is really cool ... but now it's a bonus to be advancing so much farther."

Deldin, whose great stretches at first base became a staple of Connecticut's defensive abilities throughout the tournament, was thrilled that the outcome was different this season.

"It just means so much because me and Gabby have been talking about it for the past year; about how much we wanted to get back here and how badly we wanted to win," Deldin said. "I knew from the start of districts that we could do it. It just felt so great to be able to do it this year."

Both Rodriguez and Deldin were delighted to have yet another big Connecticut crowd cheering for them on Thursday.

"It's really cool to see how the people showed up for us (today)," Rodriguez said.


Many memorable moments


From the top of the first inning to the final out, the New England champions were in warrior mode with one flawless fielding play after another to go along with clutch performances at the plate in the 10-0 victory over Vermont.

  • Right fielder Norah Bove made a super one-handed sliding catch on a fly ball fading away from her for the very first out of the game. She also provided the first out in the fifth and final inning with a great grab.

  • Center fielder Maddy Bonanno followed up on Bove's effort as, on the very next batter, she made a fantastic running scoop of a sinking liner off the bat of Vermont power-hitter Taylor Davidson. But Maddy wasn't done ... in the second inning with two outs, she made a terrific over-the-head catch as she reached up to make the play.

Milford All-Star center fielder Maddy Bonanno extends herself to make a great catch on a rising fly ball for the final out of the second inning.

  • In the second inning, Maddy Bonanno the hitter used her speed to get down the first-base line in a flash and beat out a grounder to second base. That effort put runners on first and third and set the table for Sophia Horvack's RBI groundout.

  • In the pivotal six-run fourth inning, pinch-hitter Leah Corris laid down a picture-perfect and textbook bunt with runners on first and second to keep the line moving along the basepaths. She easily beat it out and later scored an important run.

  • Then, in the very next at-bat, pinch-hitter Nyla Jaser ripped an RBI single that rocketed into the outfield and kept the big six-run inning going.

  • Catcher Ariella DiOrio, who made a bullet throw down to second base to thwart a Vermont runner trying to steal, connected for a booming double to left fielder to plate three runs as Milford stormed ahead 9-0 at that point.

  • Maddie Deldin, who continued to show her top form at first base to complete one infield putout after another, showed patience and a great eye in drawing a run-scoring walk to once again load the bases in that sixth inning.

  • Julia Scibek actually led off and set the stage for that big sixth inning when she singled, stole second (one of five Connecticut steals in the game), went to third on Corris' bunt and scored on Jaser's single.

  • Second baseman Lily Stankevich, who was again solid in handling ground balls for a pair of 4-to-3 putouts, dazzled with her quickness on the basepaths as after drawing a two-out walk she stole second and third base and scored on a throwing error.

  • Later, Maddy Bonanno drove in the "mercy rule" run on a fielder's choice as Bove raced home to end the game and send the Milford ballplayers in celebratory mode.

Connecticut's aggressiveness on the basepaths has been one of the many trademarks of the team. That combined with the stellar defense made for a championship combination.

"They were just like deers running out there (in the outfield) and shagging down flies...and then you look at their speed and mindset for knowing the situations and you have a (formula for success).," Bonanno sai







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