Kellenberg's Krista King was driving force behind three state titles
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All hail the King!
Krista King, that is.
As the only player on each of Kellenberg's three consecutive state championship teams, King helped elevate the program to, shall we say, local softball royalty.
Asked which title was best, she said that each was special in its own way.
In 2012, the Firebirds went unbeaten, winning the program's first state title. "The fact that we made school history," King said, "made it special."
In 2013, the Firebirds had their lengthy unbeaten streak snapped and weren't even the favorite to win the league, let alone state. "When you aren't the top seed and you still win," King said, "that's special."
Then last month, King concluded her three-year career with a third straight state title. "It's my last year playing here," she said, "so this one is really special."
King's role expanded through the years, from a leadoff hitter expected to use her speed to wreak havoc, to the focal point of the offense. She went from being the one who started the engine to the one who fueled it.
"I just happened to be part of all three," King said. "But everyone on the team helped win these state championships."
To understand the mind-set of the players on Kellenberg, you must enter their protective bubble. "We said all season that the 15 girls on the team were inside a bubble," pitcher Katherine Piorkowski said. "Whatever we did stayed inside the bubble, and anything outside wasn't allowed in. We only focused on the team and wouldn't let anything distract us from what we had to do."
Sorry to burst your bubble, but there was no bursting Kellenberg's bubble.
Not when a senior catcher Kathryn Eiler becomes a steadying force behind the plate and helps a young pitching staff develop quicker. Or when senior first baseman Cristen Whigham slips into the cleanup spot and fills the shoes of those who previously had the role.
"It's even more special because it's with a really good group of girls," Whigham said. "They are friends that will last forever."
Added Eiler: "To have our name in history feels amazing. With the talent that is still on the team, I see a whole bunch of potential and I hope they keep the streak alive."
That includes Piorkowski, a junior pitcher who won 13 games and had a 1.15 ERA.
Also emerging were newcomers Alexa Russell, a sophomore shortstop who led the team with 33 RBIs, and Kelly Rasulo, a sophomore third baseman who provided some unexpected power.
But setting the table for them all was the Adelphi-bound King, who hit .509. She didn't strike out all season, and in 306 career at-bats, only went down on strikes three times. Numbers like that show why she was crowned a state champion in each of her three seasons.
"There's always pressure to live up to expectations," King said. "But when you do win, you feel like you're on top of the world and the pressure was worth it."
Heavy is the crown. But King never once took it off.