Never get too up or never get too down.
Those are the words of wisdom Brookfield Little League softball head coach John Brassil imparted to his team all summer.
The Lightning heeded his advice right before the rubber game of their recent championship series against North Riverside in the Illinois District 9 Little League Softball Tournament at Ehlert Park.
“Before the game, [Brookfield outfielder] Delilah Gargano told everybody on the team never get too up or never get too down,” Brassil said. “That’s something I’ve been telling the girls so that was great she sent the same message. The team really came together and it showed in the third game.”
While the pregame talk served as a good motivational move, the girls’ play on the field was even better.
Trailing North Riverside 8-6 in the sixth inning, third baseman Emma Brassil provided the key hit of Brookfield’s comeback with a bases-clearing double that scored three runs.
Annabel Krueger and Kaylee Harper added RBI singles for the Lightning. Brookfield scored eight unanswered runs to secure a 14-8 victory, the district title and berth to the Junior Little League Softball Illinois State Tournament in Peru.
After a rocky first inning, Brookfield pitcher Desiree Pisarczyk held a potent North Riverside offense to one run over six innings. Gargano made a great play defensively when she ran down a deep fly ball which popped out of her glove, but she still caught it barehanded in center field.
In the first two games of the series, Brookfield outslugged North Riverside 12-10 before North Riverside responded with a 9-4 victory.
The games were played on the renovated Ehlert West Field, which was designed specifically for softball.
“It’s important that Ehlert West was remade and it only helps Brookfield softball in the future,” Brassil said.
During the regular season, Brookfield faced teams from Berwyn, North Riverside, Riverside, LaGrange and Chicago.
Allie Krueger, Kristen Lynch and Pisarczyk comprised the pitching staff.
“Our pitching has been solid all year,” John Brassil said. “We really depended on them at the district tournament.”
Offensively, the Lightning flourished with a diversified attack. Catchers/outfielders Mary Hopkins and Annabel Krueger set the tone as leadoff hitters, while Emma Brassil had a very good on-base percentages and stolen base totals. Sydney Weinert and Pisarczyk brought power to the lineup. Gargano, an outfielder, and second baseman Kaylee LeClere emerged as the vocal leaders of the team.
“I was impressed by the way the girls showed independence as a group this summer,” Brassil said. “Before practices and games, they would start warmups and preparation without the assistance of coaches. They were always organized about getting ready to play. I think that was inspiring for our team and intimidating for our opponents.”
Although the Lightning lost games against Elgin and Olney at the state tournament, Brassil and assistant coaches Steve Hopkins and Kevin Krueger lauded their team’s mentality.
“We had an extremely young team at state,” Brassil said. “Even the tournament director was surprised about our team’s youth. Many of our opponents had girls with a year of high school experience whereas our team is exclusively seventh- and eighth-graders.
“Our girls have had a lot of success together,” Brassil added. “They won district two years ago and many of these girls have played softball together for seven years. It was difficult losing two games [at state], but every girl’s motivation is to return next year.”
More importantly, the Lightning had a good time.
“The girls are close and really support each other,” Brassil said. “There were multiple rain delays during the tournament so the girls would huddle up and prepare for the next game. They stayed at a hotel, ate breakfast together and had fun in the pool. They did everything together as a team.”
The Brookfield players are Allie Krueger, Sydney Weinert, Mary Hopkins, Kristen Lynch, Emma Brassil, Annabel Krueger, Desiree Pisarczyk, Delilah Gargano, Kailee Harper, Claire Harrison, Kaylee LeClere, Kayla Ligeikis and Ema Bothwell.