The Brookfield 12U softball team included (front row, from left) McKenna Toland, Amanda Krueger, Sienna Giampietro, Aurea Hilgenberg, Cam Fox, Kate Hamilton, Brailyn Naylor, Elly Kowynia, Hannah Buscemi, Bella Nasti, Quinley Costello (on teammates’ backs) Amelia Pytel and Alyssa Norman. | Provided

Amanda Krueger has seen and played plenty of Brookfield Little League softball as the youngest of four sisters.

During her historic games with the Brookfield 12-Under all-stars last week at the Central Region in Whitestown, Indiana, Krueger’s sisters Allie, Annabel and Abby came to cheer on the team and their father, Kevin, an assistant coach.

“Just walking out on the field for the first regional game, it’s great standing with these girls you’ve been with your entire life and knowing you’re going to be proud knowing how far you’ve come,” Krueger said. “This is definitely the biggest thing so far [for me in softball]. This year I was really excited, because my dad has been coaching my sisters in all-stars for a really long time. I’m really glad he got to be a coach and go to regionals with us.” 

In their first regional berth since 2006, the Brookfield 12Us tied for fifth in the nine-state, double-elimination bracket with a 1-2 record, beating Crestwood, Kentucky, 7-4 on July 23 and losing to nearby Zionsville, Indiana, 12-4 on July 25 and Austintown, Ohio, 4-3 on July 26 – all broadcast live on ESPN+.

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

“A little over a year ago, they made a declaration of a goal to play on TV, to win state and they did every single thing they could to get there as a team,” Hilgenberg-Buhle said. “It seemed like a very lofty goal at the time, and they made it happen.”

Brookfield finished 10-2 this postseason and was undefeated in capturing District 9 and state championships. Brookfield needed to beat Ohio and two more opponents to reach the winner-take-all regional championship on July 28.

Against Indiana, Brookfield cut deficits of 3-0 and 5-2 to 5-4 before Indiana scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Ohio led 4-0 but Brookfield scored once in the third, fourth and fifth. Krueger opened the sixth reaching on an error, but three straight strikeouts ended the game. Ohio would go on to win the Central region tournament and secure a spot in the Little League Softball World Series, which is being held Aug. 6-13 at Greenville, North Carolina.

“Getting the opportunity to play in regionals, I think that’s super cool and just staying in the hotel with some of my best friends,” Norman said. 

“It’s definitely the coolest experience I’ve ever had with softball, being able to play on such a cool field, playing on TV, just everything,” Giampietro said. 

Naylor fondly remembers recording the final out of the Kentucky victory in center field.

The day before, Pytel’s grandmother had died. Pytel not only stayed but chose to be the starting pitcher. Fox relieved in the fourth.

“I overall supported whatever decision [Pytel] made,” Hilgenberg-Buhle said. “She came out and did really well, but she knew when she was up and passed the reins to Cam.” 

Costello balanced softball with her dancing and returned in time for her recital on July 27. Giampietro, who balanced softball with club gymnastics, will remember scoring Brookfield’s first run against Ohio with her third-inning triple followed by an error. 

Eleven girls also played travel softball, nine with the BRW Blast and Pytel and Naylor with the Blazers.

“With travel softball, Little League softball, that equaled for most of these girls about 90 games. And that excludes winter tournaments,” Kevin Krueger said. 

Hilgenberg-Buhle, whose daughter is Aurea, and Krueger are finishing coaching together about six years and Krueger for 13 years overall.

Krueger’s been to state three times each with Amanda and oldest daughters, Allie and Annabel. Abby’s all-star seasons were affected by COVID-19.

“We usually played on three different Little League teams. We’d have games at 4, 6 and 8 so you’d pretty much be there all day,” Amanda Krueger said. 

During time off at regionals, Brookfield players enjoyed Wiffle Ball games in the grassy field by their hotel. 

When they noticed girls waving from hotel windows, they invited them down for a pickup game.

That hastened their friendship with the Ohio players, who beat Johnston, Iowa 4-0 for the championship.

“[Regionals] was really fun and we got to make new friends,” Naylor said. “We told them they better win, because they won against us.”