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'Biggest crowd ever' watches Milford All-Stars earn their shot at New England title

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

By Rick Menning

BRISTOL, CT -- There were very few empty spaces among the bleachers on the third-base side of the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center on Tuesday night.

Not only were parents, grandparents, relatives and friends in attendance, but also five levels of representatives from Milford's youth softball program were there in droves as the Milford Major Division Little League Softball All-Stars defeated Bonny Eagle, Maine 6-2 in the New England Region semifinals.

The victory catapulted the Connecticut state champions into Thursday's noon showdown for the regional championship and a berth in the Little League Softball World Series in Greenville, North Carolina. Milford will play Vermont, a 7-6 come-from-behind winner over Maine on Wednesday afternoon.

Hundreds of Milford, Connecticut fans applaud the winning effort of their All-Star state champions at the conclusion of Tuesday's prime-time semifinal game against Maine. The crowd was the biggest to date in 2022 at the New England Region tournament in Bristol.

"That's the biggest crowd we've played (in front of) ever," noted Milford manager Michael Bonanno after his squad recorded its 10th straight victory along the All-Star tournament trail. "It was incredible to see all that support and all those age groups come out and support us. There were like five levels of Milford softball

(represented) in the stands."

Indeed, that support was both massive and vocal as the cheers and chants for the visiting team on the scoreboard rang out the entire game. Maine also had large numbers of fans on its side, creating an amazing atmosphere for the prime-time showcase on ESPN+.

Celebration mode! The Milford All-Stars are all smiles as they advance to the New England Region championship game on Thursday at noon on ESPN+.

"It was so exciting," said Milford All-Star pitcher Sophia Horvack, who tossed a complete-game two-hitter with nine strikeouts. She did not walk a single batter and Maine's only two hits came in the sixth inning.

"She's been pitching lights out every game," Bonanno said of Horvack. "When I saw her in the bullpen before the game, she was throwing hard so I knew she was ready. She's very stoic in her approach."

In fact, Milford pitchers have not issued a base on balls to an opposing batter since the very first girl in the Vermont game reached base which marks 11 straight innings with zero walks.

Milford All-Star pitcher Sophia Horvack winds up for a big-time release in the circle as she limits Maine to two hits, both in the final inning.

The Connecticut ballplayers appreciated the great support but kept their focus on the task at hand.

"There were (definitely) a lot of people there but I just try to go out there and do my best," added Milford All-Star left fielder Chloe Capalbo, who ripped two singles, scored once, stole a base and had an RBI.

Ignition ... and liftoff

Like the crowd, the Connecticut bats were out in force as a national television audience on ESPN+ were treated to a 12-hit barrage -- including five straight during a four-run third inning -- as the 12-under age group girls once again showcased their offensive clout and defensive might to remain undefeated.

"That's the best hitting we've had in a long time ... and our defense was also incredible," said Bonanno, who also has been pleased with the effort inside the circle all tournament long.

Milford All-Star Chloe Capalbo reaches out and powers the ball past the Maine infielders as the state champs go on a 12-hit tear in the regional semifinal.

"We pride ourselves on (our pitchers) throwing strikes and working the corners and giving (the opposing batters) tough pitches to hit," he said.

Emily Speringo rocketed a pinch-hit RBI triple -- which along with Lily Stankevich's run-scoring double and Horvack's leadoff double were the booming blasts during Milford's key third inning -- as nine batters came to the plate.

Capalbo also made an impact with her RBI single and she likewise crossed home plate with Connecticut's third run that inning.

Milford All-Star Emily Speringo wallops a monster triple during Connecticut's four-run third inning against Maine.

Along with Stankevich, Capalbo and Bove, third baseman Julia Scibek joined the bat brigade with a pair of hits in the contest.

Flashing that leather

Once again, the glovework at all positions was unrelenting as Milford continued to keep opponents off the bases.

Fly balls to the outfield? No problem whatsoever for right fielder Norah Bove, who made three super catches -- one while running to her right and with the ball sinking toward the grass -- through the first four innings. Her all-around abilities also shone at the plate as she ripped a double and single and scored a run.

Her two-bagger in the sixth inning subsequently resulted in Connecticut's sixth run as Maddy Bonanno singled her home.

Bonanno moved her over from center field in the Vermont game to right field against Maine and it paid big dividends.

"We put Norah in right field thinking that's where the ball is going to go with Sophia pitching and she came up huge," he said.

A huge Milford crowd goes into a frenzy as the Connecticut state champions unleash a 12-hit attack in Tuesday's showdown with Maine.

Shortstop Gabby Rodriguez once again turned in a remarkable performance as she singlehandedly accounted for two of Maine's three outs in the fifth inning. After back peddling to haul in a pop fly, Rodriguez snagged a sharply hit line drive. Horvack then retired the last batter in that frame on a strikeout.

Second baseman Lily Stankevich played her usual solid game defensively with a couple of scoops and putouts over to first baseman Maddie Deldin. She also handled a pop up with ease in the sixth inning.

Catcher Ariella DiOrio also came up big for Milford with a nice catch of a high pop-up in foul territory near the screen for the last out in the fourth inning.

Chasing some history

This is Milford's first appearance in the New England final since losing to Pennsylvania, 2-1, three years ago. No Connecticut team has made it to the Little League Softball World Series since 2007.

"We have that (2007) number in our head and we know that we can be the first Milford team to do it which is pretty exciting," Bonanno said. "Our (next) goal is to get to North Carolina. It's not going to be easy ... in a one-game final anything can happen."

Congratulations Milford Junior Division All-Stars!!!

World Series-bound!!!

The Milford Little League Junior Division All-Stars proudly display their East title banner. The girls are on their way to the World Series in Kirkland, Washington! Milford defeated Pennsylvania in the title game. Pictured are first row: Hana Beauregard, Mady Bull, Charlotte Doyle, Sarah Donegan, Sophia Scarpa and Lilly Olmstead; middle row: Maya Fallon-Silva, Alyssa Joye, Cassie Rodriguez, Olivia Gregory, Erika Fabian, Abby Corris, Emily Roos and Team Manager Margaret Bull; and back row: Coach Scott Beauregard and Coach and President Milford Little League Brian Corris. Maya Fallon-Silva hit a Grand Slam Home Run!

(Editor's Note: I know it's a tough time of day for so many, but if everyone reading this article could please find a way to attend Thursday's noon Major Division championship game in Bristol it would mean so much to the girls. Thanks for considering!...Rick)

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