By Rick Menning
BRISTOL, CT -- Here they glow again!
Another Milford regional champion, another World Series appearance for Connecticut's outstanding Little League girls' softball program which unfurled yet another banner on Friday afternoon.
There is no rebuild among the many divisions that call Brewster Field home. It's reload, refocus and defend titles.
And now, the international stage awaits a group of girls whose athleticism and work ethic at practices and in games has paid off in huge dividends.
For the second straight year and the second time in the last two days, two amazing girls' softball teams from this coastal city along the shores of Long Island Sound will be competing in their respective World Series showcases.
Friday afternoon, just about 48 hours after the Junior Leaguers won their U.S. East regional in Orange, Milford's Little League squad defeated Buxton, Maine 11-1 to emerge as New England champions and punch their ticket to Greenville, North Carolina.
Get out the brooms
Manager Bryan Glynn's squad wrapped up an undefeated run through the competition at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center in Bristol.
And they did so in an emphatic and highly convincing manner.
The Milford girls outscored their three regional opponents by a combined 35-3 runs for the clean sweep. Milford opened with an 11-1 win over Vermont on Monday and followed that up with a 13-1 rout of Rhode Island on Wednesday.
With the heat index on Breen Field approaching 95 degrees, the Milford 11-13 (Little League age players can turn 13 during tournament play) sluggers broke loose with a 15-hit onslaught enroute to their title-clinching performance in front of an announced crowd of 321.
"They were ready to go today and really responded to that speed that the Maine pitcher was throwing," Milford manager Bryan Glynn said. "They had a good (approach) to those pitches and they were really fired up today to do well."
With their 12th victory in 13 All-Star tournament games secured, Glynn's squad heads to Greenville, North Carolina to face the Europe-Africa Region winner on Sunday, Aug. 6. First pitch is at 4 p.m.
Glynn was pleased with the way the girls overcame their first-inning jitters which had them trailing 1-0 but then rally back in such a big way.
"It was impressive to watch the way they put the bat on the ball," Glynn continued. "Watching what they did at the plate today was just unbelievably impressive."
Milford parents and supporters erupted into loud cheers when Holly Coon raced home with the game-clinching run in the fifth inning. Coon had reached on a walk and advanced all the way to third base on an error.
Concise in the circle
In a magnificent pitching performance, Grace Weber completely shut down Maine in the last three innings of Friday's mercy rule contest. Weber, who struck out three and walked two in a complete-game effort, retired the last 10 batters she faced and allowed only an infield hit in the first inning.
"I thought I had a really good warm-up (session) today, and I knew I could pretty much throw all my pitches in any (situation)," said Weber, who for the third consecutive game held the state champion teams she faced to a single run. "It's really cool to be going to the World Series. I'm so excited."
Her manager looked on in awe as Weber threw nearly 65 percent of her pitches for strikes.
"Grace was dominant today; what a performance!" Glynn said. "The girls were making the catches and making the plays around her. She had a really good (pitching) game plan."
And at the plate, Milford unleashed one missile shot after another to all areas of Breen Field. When the dust settled on the diamond, the rulers of the New England Region were marching in a fantastic hit parade.
Dani Kotansky came through with a pair of hits and three RBI, including a two-run double to left/center field during Milford's six-run third inning.
Rally right at the start
After Maine scored a solo run in the top of the first inning, Milford erupted like a shot out of a cannon in their half of that frame.
Marina Cosmas and Riley Fagan-Davies, one of Milford's two players who competed in last summer's Little League Softball World Series along with Emily Speringo, launched consecutive doubles to tie the game at 1-1. Kotansky then ripped an RBI single to make it 2-1 in favor of Milford.
"It's insane (to be going back to the World Series)," said Fagan-Davies, who along with her double made a great catch in right field. "Not everyone thought we could get back to the World Series with so many new players but here we are."
In all, the District 4, Section 1 and Connecticut state champions exploded for six doubles in the regional clincher.
Marina Cosmas had a pair of those two-baggers -- both into the gap in the outfield -- while Emma Bonanno contributed the other double.
During the third-inning offensive uprising, Speringo and Kotansky were a one-two punch with back-to-back two-baggers. Addie McKenna-Hansen subsequently powered an RBI single scoring Cayleigh Glynn, who beat out an infield base hit.
Multi-hit performances for the New England champions were produced by Marina Cosmas (two doubles); Dani Kotansky (double, single); Cayleigh Glynn (two singles); and Audrey O'Connell (two singles).
Stick with the game plan
For second baseman O'Connell, who handled two sharp grounders and also took a throw from first baseman Emma Bonanno on a Maine bunt attempt, it was all about staying calm and not getting too overwhelmed in front of the ESPN cameras.
"We didn't really think about any pressure," O'Connell said. "We just wanted to take it one step at a time and just work together as a team."
In Milford's two-run fourth inning, O'Connell and Maja Brown starting things off with consecutive base hits and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Sammy Marini and Kotansky's second double.
"This is a dream for us and we're so happy it came true," Brown said. "We didn't want to jinx anything but we all knew deep down that we wanted to go (to the World Series). Ringo (Emily Speringo) was kind of explaining to us what it would be like in the dorms and stuff down there (in Greenville) and it sounds really fun."
Time to live the dream
For Speringo, thinking about that early morning wake-up call and trip south inside a luxury bus just like last year has her and the team in can't-wait mode.
"I am so happy to be going back," she said. "This year's team has a fire to do well and we are so set on winning. It really feels like we've earned this."
All the hard work to get to this point has reaped the best reward.
"Two-and-a-half hours of practice every single day unless we had a game," Speringo explained. "We practice on weekends in the cage ... we finally earned everything that we have been working so hard for."
So now it's back to work as the now New England champions spend the next several days preparing for their World Series appearance..
"It's very, very exciting," Bryan Glynn said. "It's so surreal right now. This has been an unbelievable run. To watch these girls perform at the level they have this tournament season is incredible."
Milford Juniors show love
When the game-ending run scored in Bristol, the U.S. East champions from Milford broke out in cheers from their hotel room in Washington for the newly crowned New England champions.
The Junior League squad opens its World Series play this Sunday, July 30 at 5 p.m. against the Czech Republic. The game will be televised on ESPN+.
Here's the video:
Our World Series warriors!
Milford 12-Under Division Little League Girls Softball New England Champions Team Roster: Emma Bonanno, Maja Brown, Holly Coon, Marina Cosmas, Riley Fagan-Davies, Cayleigh Glynn, Dani Kotansky, Sammy Marini, Addie McKenna-Hansen, Audrey O'Connell, Emily Speringo and Grace Weber.
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.