Brookfield Little League 12-Under all-star softball player Quinley Costello has hopes of becoming a professional ballerina.
Her fleet feet on July 23 helped Brookfield take a huge first step in its Little League Softball Central Region opener against Crestwood, Kentucky.
Costello’s run-scoring, two-out infield single completed a three-run fifth inning that rallied Brookfield to a 7-4 victory in Whitestown, Indiana.
“We kept cheering [down 4-3]. Everyone kept cheering. I think that kept everyone going,” said Costello, whose single opened a 6-4 lead. “I hit it between third and short, past the pitcher. They were all fighting over it, so I just ran as fast as I could.”
Team members are Hannah Buscemi, Costello, Cam Fox, Sienna Giampietro, Kate Hamilton, Aurea Hilgenberg, Elly Kowynia, Amanda Krueger, Bella Nasti, Brailyn Naylor, Alyssa Norman, Amelia Pytel and McKenna Toland. The manager is Lisa Hilgenberg-Buhle with coaches Kevin Krueger and Angelo Nasti.
Brookfield plays Zionsville, Indiana at 6 p.m. on July 25, after the Landmark’s print deadline, in the nine-state, double-elimination bracket. The final to advance to the World Series is on July 28.
Winning pitcher Fox (6 strikeouts), who relieved in the fourth, and starter Pytel (7 strikeouts) combined on a one-hitter with five walks and two hit batters. But that hit in the fourth was a bases-loaded triple followed by a wild pitch that put Kentucky ahead 4-3.
“[Coach Krueger] always tells them that we grind. I’d say the atmosphere in the dugout [down 4-3] was the same as it always is,” Hilgenberg-Buhle said. “The more challenging the game, the more hyped up they get. There was never a point where they looked panicked or scared or nervous that they couldn’t do it.”
Brookfield qualified for the Central region tournament by winning state for the first time since 2006 (Dan Cook manager) and 1997 (John Vermillion manager).
These days, regional games are broadcast live on ESPN+. Fans back in Illinois organized watch parties, such as the roughly 60 who gathered at Irish Times Pub and Restaurant in Brookfield to watch the game against Kentucky.
“It’s really exciting but with the TV cameras, it’s a little overwhelming because you don’t know when you’re actually on TV,” Toland said. “You just tune the cameras out and focus on the game.”
Hilgenberg-Buhle said the teams received additional rules, such as when to take the field during TV timeouts. Players and coaches were required to sequester cellphones and tech watches in a bag during the game.
“When I was up to bat, I was smiling the whole time,” Hamilton said. “It’s really fun for people to see you play at a higher level [and when] you’re winning and getting hits.”
Brookfield batted first. In the fifth, singles by Nasti, Norman and Giampietro loaded the bases with one out. Krueger’s infield single just past the pitcher scored Nasti for a 4-4 tie.
After a fly out, Brookfield went ahead to stay. Norman was forced in when Toland walked on a full-count pitch.
“I also trusted my gut, telling me [the pitch] was low,” Toland said. “Honestly, it was pretty fun, because I just came back from an injury. I hadn’t been able to do this for a long time, so it was good to be back.”
Sidelined for about a month, Toland returned to action just before the all-stars’ run to the District 9 championship. Costello has been juggling softball with ballet. She is in her last of five weeks with Ballet Chicago’s Summer Intensive training that culminates in a performance.
“I think after the first inning everyone was pretty ready,” Costello said. “Even though we got a little behind we kept our momentum throughout the whole game.”
Brookfield took a 2-0 lead in the first. Hamilton and Pytel singled and scored on Fox’s two-out single that got by the center fielder.
In the third, leadoff hitter Naylor delivered a two-out single, stole second and scored on Hamilton’s single to right.
Hamilton concluded her 3-for-3 game by scoring all the way from second in the sixth. Hamilton tagged up on Hilgenberg’s fly out to right field and was waved home after the ball dropped out of the fielder’s glove.
“It was basically continuous. I just kept running,” Hamilton said. “I hope this game really shows what to expect. I hope we can just keep going and play like we always play.”
Hilgenberg-Buhle said the phone bag “was physically vibrating” from well-wishers and congratulations. Brookfield also had strong representation at the game.
“It’s a little overwhelming how many people are stopping their lives to watch these girls and support them, and we’re all really grateful for it,” Hilgenberg-Buhle said.
Another watch party was scheduled for the July 25 game. Brooke Bandik-Righeimer coordinated the July 23 event with Irish Times owner Martin Lynch.
“We have a lot of the families come over after [games at Ehlert Park]. I think it was just a natural progression,” Lynch said. “We love working with the local community and local teams.”