Pitcher Nena Melendez and her Brookfield Little League 11-Under all-star softball teammates are doing their best to remain sharp for the upcoming state tournament.
“I know I’ve been practicing in my staircase non-stop,” Melendez said. “Like every time I see a sock, something round, I just pitch because I really want to throw accurate.”
Brookfield finally returns to action July 22 on its home field after winning the District 9 championship back on July 6. Brookfield swept North Riverside 15-0 in three innings in both games of the best-of-three championship series.
Team members are Ema Beattie, Lea Becker, Grace Campbell, Justina Costello, Nora Graham, Kallie Hickey, Vivien Kowynia, Melendez, Paige Olsen, Lyla Pigoni, Lula Smith, Josie Swanson and Yannis Villamil, Mike Melendez is the manager with coaches Dave Campbell and Ed Kowynia.
All but one of the players were part of Brookfield’s 2022 10U softball team that finished third at state. Many also are teammates with the Brookfield Nationals part-time travel team.
“I feel like the more experience you have, the more confidence you get. You just have to believe in yourselves,” said shortstop/first baseman Pigoni.
“I feel like knowing all of the people around you have your back, it makes it a lot easier. Since everybody has had some experience with the all-star tournaments, it’s going to be really amazing if we do win.”
Melendez pitched both district games. She threw a no-hitter in the opener with seven strikeouts and two walks followed by a one-hitter with six strikeouts and five walks. In that game, Melendez overcame walking the bases loaded with no outs.
“I was terrified. I just had to calm down,” Melendez said. “We’ve been wanting to win state since forever. It’s been a dream so if we win state, that’ll be the happiest thing ever. That would be crazy.”
In the first victory, Brookfield had 15 hits and broke through with a 12-run third inning. Pigoni (2 doubles), Kowynia (double), Hickey, Swanson and Beattie each had two hits and Melendez tripled.
Brookfield had 11 hits in the second victory with two doubles each from Pigoni and Melendez. Villamil had two hits and Becker and Hickey also doubled.
“It took them a while to adjust [to the pitching] but then they put the bat to the ball,” Mike Melendez said. “At this point of the season, we’re just trying to have fun.”
Several players praised Kowynia’s vocal leadership at catcher. Second baseman/pitcher Campbell again has been a Papa Smurf, supplying teammates with blue eye-black designs, but more toned down than during last year’s state run.
“This [title] was a lot different because last year we had several district games over several days and this year it was just one day and it was quick,” Campbell said. “We’ve definitely all improved a lot.”