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World Serious! Milford Junior League softball All-Stars mean business as U.S. East kingpins

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

By Rick Menning

ORANGE, CT--Five hours of an adrenaline rush for the players and heart-stopping suspense for the parents highlighted the decisive game of the Junior League Softball U.S. East Region best-of-three championship series on Wednesday.

Two sensational extra-inning rallies propelled the Milford All-Stars to a 6-5 victory over Johnstown, Pennsylvania and a deserving trip to Kirkland, Washington in the upcoming Junior League Softball World Series.

The newly crowned U.S. East representatives take the field at Everest Park for their opening game against Prague, Czech Republic of the Europe-Africa Region on Sunday. First pitch is at 5 p.m. Eastern Time and will be nationally televised on ESPN+.

EAST ELITE: The Milford Junior League girls' softball team will be bringing their banner to Kirkland, Washington as they represent the U.S. East Region in the Junior League Softball World Series starting on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Rodriguez.)

All the drama and emotional outpouring actually took place over two cliffhanger games on an incredible day of tension-packed action. After winning the opener of the first game of the series on Tuesday in a 9-4 outcome, Milford faced a determined Pennsylvania team on Wednesday and that set the stage for an incredible marathon of high intensity.

The Johnstown girls won the battle in game two (Wednesday's game one) 3-1 and that prompted the thrilling finale.

An overtime for the ages

Adding even more fuel to the day's competitive fire, the winner-take-all showcase couldn't be decided in the regulation seven innings.

It went 10 innings and had the crowd at the Officer Robert F. Stankye Memorial Field on the edge of their seats.

When winning pitcher Abby Corris ripped a two-out, two-run single up the middle to end this electric encounter between two gladiator squads and clinch the victory for Milford, a collective exhale could be felt throughout the ballpark.

Her screaming liner into center field resulted in screams and general pandemonium from Milford's dugout, and that exhilaration carried over to the supporters who can now make their World Series plans.

"I was a little nervous, but when I (stepped into the batter's box) I got into my zone and said to myself 'I'm going to hit this ball and win this game for us' and it happened," said Corris, whose memorable hit also put an end to a gutsy and gritty overall 16-inning performance inside the circle.

And even when the Pennsylvania team scored twice in each of its halves of those ninth and 10th innings, Corris stayed committed and resolved.

"I kept thinking I just have to keep firing strikes and my team will make the plays," she said. "I just kept pushing through the heat and stayed focused. I know we had it in us to (respond) and get the runs back."

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Milford Junior League All-Star pitcher Abby Corris prepares to deliver a strike to home plate. Corris not only pitched 16 total innings but also came through with the U.S. East title-clinching single against Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Rodriguez.)

Milford manager Brian Corris was in awe of his daughter's and the entire team's perseverance amidst the pressure-packed situations while also taking into consideration the heat and longevity caused by the two games.

"Abby was amazing today and gave us the energy we needed. She was a workhorse in the circle today, and then she got that big hit at the end," Brian Corris said. "I just thought our whole team responded again and again. It was a day of challenges and we answered every one of them."

The Milford road warriors had little time to celebrate as they had to board a plane on Thursday morning for the trip to Kirkland and a second straight appearance in the World Series by a Junior League representative from Brewster Field.

Two huge comeback efforts

With the score knotted at 1-1 through the regulation seven innings, each team was shut down in the eighth inning leading to the final two innings played starting with an automatic runner on second base.

The Johnstown girls had scored twice in their half of the ninth to take a 3-1 lead, but Milford's Ariella DiOrio was not about to have the season end for herself and her teammates.

With Norah Bove on second base and one out, DiOrio sent a blast deep over the left field fence to dramatically supply the equalizer. It was her second home run of the day having delivered a solo moon shot to center field in Milford's 3-1 loss in game one.

"I didn't even really think about what might happen when I came to bat those two times," DiOrio said. "But, when (the home runs) happened, first I screamed and then it was kind of (surreal) rounding the bases."

LAUNCH PAD: Milford All-Star Ariella DiOrio hits the ignition button and sends the pitch into the stratosphere to tie the game against Johnstown, Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Rodriguez).

DiOrio, whose home runs were no-doubters and sent the Milford crowd into jubilation, hopes Milford's success both at the Junior League and Little League levels pays important dividends down the road. She was the catcher on last year's Major Division (Little League ages 11-12) team that played in the Little League Softball World Series in Greenville, North Carolina.

"I hope our going to the World Series all these times inspires young girls to strive to achieve the same thing," DiOrio said. "I know our entire team wants what we've accomplished to inspire future generations."

RETURN TO EARTH: Milford slugger Ariella DiOrio receives a rousing welcome as she prepares to cross home plate following one of her two monster blasts in games two and three of the U.S. East Region championship series. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Rodriguez).

Once again, Pennsylvania crossed home plate twice in the 10th inning to jump ahead 5-3 and the tension in the air could be cut with a knife.

Maddy Bonanno was the runner on second base when Milford unloaded its offensive arsenal. Consecutive base hits by Julia Scibek, Lily Stankevich and Gabby Rodriguez set the table for Corris' delirium-inducing smash as a wild scene unfolded on the diamond.

"The girls played great defense they had timely hitting. We got it done when we had to get it done," Brian Corris continued shortly after being drenched with water during the post-game celebration. "They fight back and never quit. This team has a lot of determination and a lot of will to win. It's awesome."

Endurance to the extreme

After pitching six innings in Wednesday's first game starting at 9 a.m., Abby Corris was again a warrior inside the circle in the finale contest.

One of two returning players from last year's Junior League Softball World Series team along with Maya Fallon-Silva, Corris wound up going the entire 10 innings in a tremendous show of heart and determination.

Fallon-Silva, who is one of the team captains, believes the approach in Kirkland this summer will be different from last summer.

"Last year we had Madyson Bull who was so good and was our leader, and this year we have faith and believe in ourselves as a team even though we don't have Madyson this year," Fallon-Silva said. "When we bring the energy as we have this (All-Star) tournament season, we do really good and we're all hoping for that in Washington."

HAPPY ENDING: Milford All-Star Lily Stankevich (No. 6) safely slides under the attempted tag for the winning and U.S. East title-clinching run. Milford will play the Czech Republic in its opening game on Sunday in the Junior League Softball World Series. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Rodriguez).

Milford opened the scoring in the third inning when Nyla Jaser doubled and later raced home on Julia Scibek's RBI single to left field. Pennsylvania tied it in the sixth inning before the extra-inning dramatics unfolded. It was one of three hits for Milford's third baseman.

As was this case with every player on the team, the mindset needed to stay positive in both the ninth and 10th innings when the deficit was two runs.

"We needed all the support and energy that we could get to make sure we could accomplish all that we wanted to accomplish," said Scibek, who played third base and was among the stellar infield playmakers that also included shortstop Gabby Rodriguez, second baseman Lily Stankevich and first baseman Maddie Deldin. "We needed to stay confident and make sure nobody was down and everyone was hyped up in the dugout."

Dazzling defensive display

Milford's golden glovework -- that also featured a rock-solid outfield of Fallon-Silva in left, Norah Bove in center and Nyla Jaser in right -- played error-free softball all day, and it was certainly needed as the Johnstown players also excelled with their gloves.

In the pivotal ninth inning, first baseman Maddie Deldin accounted for all three Pennsylvania outs with unassisted putouts including a diving grab of a sinking hard-hit line drive.

FLASHING THE LEATHER: Milford All-Star first baseman Maddie Deldin was an integral part of 14 fielding plays in the decisive third game against Johnstown, PA. Her effort included three unassisted putouts in the ninth inning. She also scooped up two other line shots and easily handled two popouts. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Rodriguez).

Maddy Bonanno, who scored the first of the three runs in the pivotal and decisive 10th inning, was among the wild celebrants at home plate as Scibek (bunt base hit) and Stankevich (single) subsequently followed with the tying and winning runs.

"We never give up even those times when we're down," Bonanno said. "We just keep cheering loud and supporting our teammates. We kept the energy up (in the extra innings) and never stopped believing in ourselves."

From the 2012 team...with love

Milford Junior League U.S. East Region Girls Softball Championship Team Roster: Maddy Bonanno, Norah Bove, Chloe Capalbo, Abby Corris, Leah Corris, Maddie Deldin, Ariella DiOrio, Maya Fallon-Silva, Nyla Jaser, Gabby Rodriguez, Julia Scibek and Lily Stankevich.

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