The Brookfield Little League 10-Under softball all-star team finished third in state. Team members are (front row, from left) Yannis Villamil, Vivien Kowynia, Nena Melendez, Josie Swanson, Lyla Pigoni, Grace Campbell, Nora Graham, Paige Olsen, Maeve Toland, Ema Beattie, (back row) Kallie Hickey and Justina Costello. Olivia Righeimer and Lula Smith are not pictured. (Provided)

Lyla Pigoni and her Brookfield Little League 10-Under softball all-star teammates brought more than experience in their return to the state tournament. 

“This team this year, everybody knew each other and everybody got to know each other a lot better,” Pigoni said. 

“What’s good about having a connected team is the more you know each other, the better you work together. If you’re on a team, just make sure you get connected and stay connected.”

Brookfield made the most of those strengths and finished third at the 10-U state tournament, based at Ehlert Park’s Dan Hull Field. 

Team members were Ema Beattie, Grace Campbell, Justina Costello, Nora Graham, Kallie Hickey, Vivien Kowynia, Nena Melendez, Paige Olsen, Pigoni, Olivia Righeimer, Lula Smith, Josie Swanson, Maeve Toland and Yannis Villamil. Mike Melendez was manager and David Campbell and Ed Kowynia were assistant coaches.

“I was able to work with two great assistant coaches,” said Mike Melendez, also the 2021 manager. 

“It’s been a fun run and we improved from last year. There’s still a little improvement to do. When I huddled up with them, we said let’s stick together. Let’s keep working. Let’s build off of this.”

Brookfield finished 3-2 in the double-elimination bracket format, one victory from Thursday’s championship series. After a 7-6 victory over Oglesby, July 26, Brookfield lost to River Forest 10-6, July 27. Brookfield scored five runs to overcome a 4-1 deficit, but River Forest scored six runs in the top of the sixth inning. In the championship series, River Forest defeated Evergreen Park twice for the state title (4-3 in 7 innings and 6-3). 

Pigoni, Campbell, Kowynia, Melendez and Swanson were part of last year’s 10-U all-star team that was 0-3 at state in a round-robin format. 

Seven more players from the 2021 team helped this season’s Brookfield 12-U all-star team win the District 9 title and also finish third at state. 

These were the first Brookfield softball victories in a state tournament in at least a decade.

“Last year we were eighth place and now we’re third place. That’s a big improvement and a big change,” Kowynia said. “The 12-U got third and we got third. We were both great teams. I think it was very motivating and good that we did it.”  

There’s optimism that many of the graduating 10-U players can continue their success with the 12-U standouts next season.

“I won’t get really sad about [this loss] because I know we have games in the future, so I don’t have something to look down to. I have something to look up to,” Campbell said. 

Brookfield rallied to defeat Oglesby. Melendez, who pitched every game, got a game-ending strikeout with the tying run at second base.

“The 10-and-under group learned never to give up, to never lose hope,” Nena Melendez said. “We were about to lose hope. We were about to give it all up, but then we had a comeback in other games and then we did amazing. So I hope they learn never lose hope.”