Members of the Brookfield Little League 12U softball all-stars celebrate their victory over Evergreen Park during the state championship game on July 18 in Burbank. | Steve Johnston/Contributor

Brookfield Little League 12-Under all-star softball pitcher Amelia Pytel knew she might be needed in relief for the Majors state championship game July 18.

She only was surprised when. 

There were two outs in the fifth inning when Pytel entered with two outs and two runners on base, including the tying run at second.

The batter, however, already had a full count.

Pytel threw a swinging strike, and the threat was over.

“Yeah, it was really scary and I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t throw that strike,” Pytel said. “I had a little bit of an idea [I’d pitch] but I wasn’t expecting coming in with a 3-2 count.”

The strike heard around Brookfield was the last of many clutch efforts that delivered a 4-3 victory over Evergreen Park in the one-game final and a berth to the Little League Central Region’s nine-team, double-elimination tournament in Indianapolis. Brookfield opens at 6 p.m. on July 23 against Kentucky.

Team members are Hannah Buscemi, Quinley Costello, Cam Fox, Sienna Giampietro, Kate Hamilton, Hilgenberg, Elly Kowynia, Amanda Krueger, Bella Nasti, Brailyn Naylor, Alyssa Norman, Pytel and McKenna Toland. The manager is Lisa Hilgenberg-Buhle with coaches Kevin Krueger and Angelo Nasti.

“These girls support each other in a way I have never seen on a team,” Hilgenberg-Buhle said. “They are a special group. We tell them that all of the time. It starts to feel disingenuous, but I really feel like I don’t know if we’ll ever see this kind of a group again.”

Last year, Brookfield finished third at state in a double-elimination format. Eleven players return including seven who reached 10U state with Brookfield in 2021. Many are traveling softball teammates on the BRW Blast.

“I feel like — finally — because we’ve been here for three years and we’ve never won. It was just crazy,” Fox said.

“If we did not work as hard as we did today, we honestly could not have done this,” Nasti said. “If we had a whole different team that nobody knew each other, I don’t think we would have played so great today.”

More will see Brookfield, too. The Central Region games will be broadcast on television by ESPN+.

“Last year, we knew if we went to regionals we would be on TV. We were all watching the other team,” Hilgenberg said. “We really wanted to be on TV. I feel like we really pushed at the practices and games.”

The pitching of Pytel and Fox exemplified Brookfield’s teamwork. Fox threw a complete-game, one-hitter in the District 9 championship clincher over LaGrange July 13.

Pytel delivered a complete-game, two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the July 17 semifinals. Brookfield won 7-0 over defending state champion Beardstown, which in 2022 eliminated Brookfield and beat Evergreen Park twice for the state title.

In the sixth and final inning of the state title game, Pytel got back-to-back ground outs to her and a swinging strikeout to start the celebrations.

“I had the confidence, coming in and throwing all of those strikes because I did [in the seimfinals],” Pytel said.

Scoring all of its runs with two outs, Brookfield took leads of 3-0 in the top of the second and 4-1 in the third.

In the second, Fox singled and scored on Norman’s bloop single. Kowynia walked and Giampietro and Krueger followed with back-to-back RBI singles.

“That [RBI] was so cool. I was so happy. I can’t even explain it,” Norman said. “It’s not one of my biggest [hits] but for the state championship, yeah, it’s the most important. That’s for sure.”

“It just feels so good when you get a big hit,” Giampietro said. “Just that sound makes me feel so happy.”

Naylor’s two-out, opposite-field triple followed Buscemi’s single for Brookfield’s fourth run in the third.

“Last year, I feel we weren’t as ready as we are this year. I think we’ve progressed as softball players and we’re really close now,” Naylor said. “It was pretty scary when it was [4-3] but we pulled it off in the end.”