The final out couldn't come soon enough for Krista King. She was all smiles waiting for the pop-up to land in her glove.
"I just tried to stay out of my own head and treat it like any other," the senior second baseman said. "I can't describe that feeling."
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When King secured the 21st out of the CHSAA state softball final Tuesday at the College of Staten Island, Kellenberg could celebrate its third consecutive state title after a 7-2 win over St. Joseph by the Sea.
"It's unbelievable," said Kathryn Eiler, who caught righthander Katherine Piorkowski's four-hitter with an earned run, three strikeouts and no walks. "The feeling never gets old seeing us as state champs on the scoreboard."
In the semifinals -- a 5-1 win over St. Francis Prep -- Piorkowski threw a three-hitter with one run, striking out five and walking two.
"No matter what game it is, I always make sure I'm nice and calm because that's what I'm supposed to do -- get the job done," Piorkowski said. "I was in my groove. The big words for me are to stay calm, be relaxed and quiet."
Added Eiler: "She got it done like a champ. Nothing rocked her."
Meanwhile, the Kellenberg offense was rocking. Piorkowski was a part of it, going 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs over the two wins. In the final, Cristen Whigham went 3-for-3 with a double, two singles, an RBI and two runs. King had a hit in each win, and Eiler's two-run double was the big hit in a four-run fifth inning that gave the Firebirds (21-8) a big cushion in the final.
"Our offense was really great," Piorkowski said. "It's great to have such a lead in big games."
After the celebratory pile-up, Nikki Ditizio stood on the awards ceremony line and asked her teammates, "Am I crying yet?"
"This team means so much to me that I knew once it hits me, that I was going to break down," said Ditizio, who hit an RBI fielder's choice that drove in Victoria Sapraicone to give the Firebirds a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second. "We kept it going and always felt that no one swing was going to win the game."
Kellenberg coach Ken Conrade said: "We always have the mind-set of trying to score first and put that offensive pressure on the other team. They do it with a tremendous amount of heart."