BRISTOL — Milford manager Scott Worzel liked the way his Connecticut state champions had taken to being the visiting team this summer. The plan was always to get the first crack at the scoreboard, then tack on runs from there.
That was the case when Milford put up a three-spot in the top of the first inning and defeated New Jersey 6-2 in the loser’s bracket final of the East Regional at Leon J. Breen Field on Wednesday afternoon.
Milford (3-1) will play unbeaten Pennsylvania (3-0) for the title on Thursday at noon. The winner advances to the Little League Softball World Series (Aug. 7-14) in Portland, Ore.
“The players ask ‘Are we home or away’ — I always say away. “They say ‘coach you stink at the coin flip,’ ” Worzel said. “We never get to choose because the team that calls it is the one that traveled furthest to the field. Districts were in Orange. We were always the closest team.
“Today, we had a clean game on defense, we threw strikes, and we got the hitting going early.”
Milford’s Judy Tarczali was a warrior in the pitching circle. Her only strikeout came in the sixth inning, but the right-hander made all the big pitches and let <FZ,1,0,63>her defense do the rest.
“At our meeting at the end of the game, I was going to mention that (one strikeout),” Tarczali said. “I wanted to tell them I rely on them. You don’t need strikeouts to get outs.”
Avery Falco had a hand in six outs from her third base position to lead a stellar infield performance from Talia Salanto at shortstop, Teagan Garfield at second and Madyson Bull at first base.
“Before every pitch, I just think about what I’m going to do if the ball is hit to me,” Falco said. “That way I’m not nervous. I just react to where the ball is hit.”
Garfield got the first-inning rally started with a single to right field. Mya Dawid, after a one-out walk to Salanto, grounded a single to center that scored Garfield. Salanto followed her home and slid under the tag on a wild throw. Grace Hess’ run-producing out, a grounder to the right side, plated Dawid. Teagan Mulvihill singled but was stranded.
New Jersey manager Scott Veisz saw his squad put up seven runs in the top of the first in their 9-4 elimination-game victory over Rhode Island earlier in the day. New Jersey won the coin toss and this time chose to get last ups. New Jersey had twice left foes on the field to advance out of its district tourney.
New Jersey’s Caroline Walls singled to lead off the home first, but Tarczali put two outs in the book. Dawid then made a strong throw to second to get Walls attempting to steal, with shortstop Bull making a quick slap tag.
The tack-on runs for Milford came in the third, and it was reserves producing the runs. Bull and Salanto began the frame with singles. Angelina Robinson’s knocked home Bull, who had singled, and Kelsea Flanagan plated a pair with a base hit to center.
New Jersey turned two hits and a walk into a run in the second. Lily Ondy had the RBI. Dawid-to-Bull ruined a double steal try with Bull’s tag coming before the run could cross the plate.
Milford’s infield continued to make plays in the bottom of the third. Falco accounted for her third assist with a strong throw to Garfield covering second for a force out. Bull went into the shortstop hole with two runners aboard and made a quick toss to Falco for the last out.
New Jersey loaded the bases in the fourth. But Bull at first base made a highlight-reel diving grab on a foul pop. Tarczali then popped up the next two batters.
Ziliani accounted for New Jersey’s second run when she doubled home Haley Krebs, who had a base hit to begin the fifth inning.
Garfield, Dawid (RBI), Mulvihill, Bull, Salato, Robinson (RBI), Grace Hess, who singled in the fifth, and Flanagan (2 RBIs) had hits for the balanced Milford roster.