Updated: Aug 8
By Rick Menning
Whenever the United States and Canada collide in any sport at any level, the excitement and drama usually reaches a magnitude somewhere between high intensity and off the charts.
Tuesday afternoon in Greenville, North Carolina, the north-south meeting was out of this world at the international Little League Softball World Series on the diamond at Stallings Stadium.
In a nine-inning, three-hour marathon standoff for the ages that captivated a nation on ESPN+, the New England champions from Milford overcame not one not two not three but four rally attempts to prevail 12-9 over the determined girls from the St. Albert Little League program.
An accomplishment made even more commendable when considering the heat and humidity of the afternoon and the sheer willpower to get the 'W' through all the challenges.
"That was an unbelievable game," said manager Bryan Glynn after his team of absolute warriors headed back to the dorms for some well-deserved fun times and swimming in the pool. "They battled and battled ... it was just a draining game for all of us."
Quite simply a refusal to lose
How incredible was this marathon thriller that will go down as one of the greatest World Series games ever played at the Elm Street Park complex?
With the action scoreless through four innings, the Connecticut All-Stars scored two runs in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings only to have the Alberta squad answer each time with a pair of their own runs.
That back-and-forth see-saw action resulted in a score of 2-2, 4-4, 6-6 and 8-8 before Milford won the battle by crossing home plate four times in its half of the ninth inning while limiting Canada to a lone run for the victory.
When center fielder Riley Fagan-Davies secured the softball in her glove while running full speed toward the infield and slightly to her right -- her second super catch that inning -- the exhausted yet ecstatic Milford athletes mobbed each other in both celebration and relief that it was finally over.
The memorable out to Fagan-Davies came against the 50th batter that winning pitcher Grace Weber faced in an encounter that had more plot twists than any suspense novel. Weber pitched all nine innings in a gritty and gutsy show of perseverance.
Blastoff advances New England
Deadlocked at 8-8, Bryan Glynn's squad went into overdrive in the decisive ninth inning.
After Holly Coon delivered a two-run single to right field to put Milford ahead for the fifth time in the contest, Emma Bonnano ripped a clutch two-run smash up the middle to secure critical insurance runs.
Dani Kotansky showed tremendous hustle down to first base in beating out a bunt that her manager described as "one of the most well-placed bunts in a pressure situation that I have ever seen" for an infield hit, and Cayleigh Glynn followed with a walk to set the stage for Coon's and Bonanno's special deliveries.
The win kept the Connecticut state champions' hopes alive with a berth in Wednesday's 10 a.m. game against Italy. Milford defeated Milano in its first World Series game this past Sunday.
Tuesday's cliffhanger came less than 24 hours after a hard-fought 6-5 loss to New York.
Despite the setback, Emily Speringo (double, single, two RBI) and Addie McKenna- Hansen (two hits, RBI) turned in solid performances.
"That game was tough on so many levels, but for the girls to respond the way they did (against Canada) just shows what this team is made of."
Elite effort in the eighth inning
The New England representatives put a two-spot on the scoreboard for the fourth consecutive time in the eighth inning as Maja Brown (fielder's choice) and Marina Cosmas (single to center) each came through with huge RBI.
Yet also for the fourth consecutive time, Alberta rallied back with the equalizing runs.
Both the eighth and ninth innings were played under Little League rules where each half inning starts with a runner on second base.
Usual seven innings not enough
Milford showed its heart and determination -- a quality of this squad since the beginning of All-Star action -- when, as the visiting team on the scoreboard, they jumped ahead before Canada answered.
Addie McKenna-Hansen connected for a two-run single with one out to score Emily Speringo and Dani Kotansky. The latter two had back-to-back walks to open the seventh-inning threat.
Cayleigh Glynn provided a clutch single to load the bases and led to McKenna-Hansen's shot into the outfield.
McKenna-Hansen's two important RBI that inning was not her only highlight as she made an over-the-shoulder catch while running full speed in left field to prevent Canada from possibly winning the game in regulation.
Cayleigh Glynn also had a web gem in the third inning. With two outs and Alberta batting, New England's third baseman raced over to the fence next to the dugout and made a great catch right against the netting.
Milford did not have a hit until the fifth inning, when Riley Fagan-Davies beat out an infield single and Dani Kotansky ripped a two-strike missile up the middle for the first RBI of the game. Coon subsequently propelled a run-scoring single to left for the 2-0 advantage at that point.
Despite the exhaustion showing on their faces, the girls from Brewster Field were pumped and filled with adrenaline as they left Stallings Stadium more than ready to rest up before their next opportunity at a 'W.'
"The girls are tired but happy, and their mindset is already focused on Wednesday," Glynn said. "They're feeling good right now and they just want to enjoy this win and go swimming."