Milford softball opens Little League Sunday at revamped East Region

MILFORD - Changes await the 10 Little League softball teams that qualified for the East Region that begins play today at the Bartlett Giamatti Leadership Training Center in Bristol.

Milford (CT), Robbinsville (NJ), and Windham (ME) return teams that competed in the 2019 regional. But the dramatic finish that saw South Williamsport (PA) defeat Milford 3-2 in the title game can’t be repeated.

COVID-19 wiped away the 2020 region and World Series. The pandemic lingers. There will be no International team competing. Instead of one champion, the World Series in Greenville, NC will feature 10 teams with the top two teams from the five U.S. region tournaments advancing.

Franklin (DE), Delmar (MD), Mifflinburg (PA), Marblehead (MA), Bradford (VT), Warwick (RI) and Orangeburg (NY) round out the East Region field.

Milford went 7-0 in districts, 3-0 in sectionals and won four straight games after losing its opener in the state tourney.

Coach Brian Corris is aware of the new tournament format, but not swayed in his approach.

“I’m not looking past Sunday, one o’clock. We play the winner of the New Jersey-Delaware game. That is our focus. We will play again Monday, at 1 or at 7, depending on who wins,” he said.

Milford has captured three consecutive state titles. It defeated Waterford last fall in a year with no region or World Series in the offing. Abby Corris and Erika Fabian from this year’s combine have been part of the three titles. Teammates Olivia Gregory, Emily Roos and Sarah Donegan have been All-Stars since 2018.

When asked to give a scouting report on his team, Corris pointed to the depth of his lineup.

“There is not a soft spot in the batting order,” he said. “One through 11 we put the ball in play. There are no easy outs. The girls make contact. We can bunt, sneak bunt, situational hit. We can go from power hitter to contact hitter with the same batter.”

Corris, assisted by Dave Rodriguez, broke down his team.

“Abby Corris has been pitching in All-Stars since she was 9,” Corris said of his right-handed ace. “Sophia Scarfa is the starting catcher. She is one of our Murder’s Row in the lineup that just hits.

“Maddie Deldin at 11 years old is absolutely the best defensive first baseman I’ve seen in Little League softball. That includes World Series games I’ve seen, and older girls that play. Maddie saves runs with her gloves.

“Cassie Rodriguez is our No. 4 hitter and will be in left field. Cassie is batting close to .600 for the whole All-Star run. She is leading the team in RBIs, slugging.

“Emily Roos is our captain and plays second base. She is our leadoff hitter, team leader. Without a hit, we can score a run with Emily. She can get on and steal bases.”

“Charlotte Doyle is our shortstop. She is fast on the base paths and has pop in her bat.”

Milford boasts a versatile roster.

“We have girls that can play multiple positions,” Corris said. “We can move players seamlessly. There are no issues. Charlotte Doyle is also our backup catcher. When we make moves, we put Gabby Rodriguez at shortstop, Charlotte behind plate. She has a great arm. She is fast on the base paths with pop in her bat.

“Maya Fallon-Silva plays third. She is out No. 3 hitter and led us in hits and RBIs for most of the season. Maya has a quality glove and tremendous power.

“Olivia Gregory is our backup pitcher and a great center fielder. She is our best fly-ball catcher. Super reliable, Olivia covers a lot of ground.

“Sarah Donegan is our starting right fielder. She can also play third base.

“Erika Fabian can come in to help in left field, right field and second base. She is versatile. She is our third pitcher.”

Corris believes in his defense.

“These girls are disciplined,” he said. “They are consistent. They rarely make the wrong decision and give the other team extra outs.”

Milford is scheduled to play its first Regional game on Sunday at 1 p.m., which will be aired on ESPN+.

Where are they now?

Five players from Milford’s East Region runners-up impacted their high school teams. Judy Tarczali was an All-State pitcher for Notre Dame of Fairfield. Talia Salanto was starting pitcher for Law’s state-qualifying team. Grace Hess started in the outfield and Angie Robinson came in off the bench. Teagan Mulvihill played at Foran.

Changes in Bristol

The usual carnival atmosphere around the grounds will be limited. Admission is limited to pass holders from teams playing at that time. Each team will decide who will receive up to 250 friend, family, and community member passes. The stadium will be cleared following each game to provide the next games’ pass holders to enter.

The Little League International Board of Directors, in its release on littleleague.org, approved a plan that incorporates a series of COVID-19 mitigation measures. All players and coaches will undergo COVID-19 testing prior to and upon arrival at their tournament location. They will have significantly limited contact from other individuals until negative tests can be confirmed.

Unvaccinated participants will also receive regular COVID-19 tests throughout the tournament. Little League International, through its partnership with Major League Baseball, will work with Spectrum Solutions, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, to provide tests at no-cost to participants and coordinate testing logistics for each event location to help ensure consistency in results and efficient turnarounds in receiving results.

The Commission recommended that the tournaments at Intermediate (50/70) Baseball, Junior League Baseball, Junior League Softball, Senior League Baseball and Senior League Softball conclude at the state level, with Region and World Series events canceled for a second year.

Little League International anticipates continuing with its plans to expand the Little League Baseball World Series to 20 teams and the Little League Softball World Series to 12 teams in 2022.

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354