There has been an odd fixture in the Kellenberg softball dugout this season -- a green book bag shaped like a turtle.
Gianna Razza bought it as a gift for coach Ken Conrade -- because he liked the one she owns -- and each of the players signed it. It has become a defacto mascot and, Conrade said, a reminder to "block out distractions and keep it all inside the shell."
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The turtle could also serve as a reminder of this proverb: Slow and steady wins the race.
The Firebirds plugged away, weathered an up-and-down season and, Wednesday, they again crossed the finish line victorious.
Third-seeded Kellenberg rallied to upset No. 1 St. Anthony's, 9-4, and captured a fourth straight CHSAA championship.
"This feeling is indescribable," said Krista King, who was named league MVP. "We've used the word 'resilience' all year, and we proved it again."
King drilled an RBI triple to right that scored Amanda Riveira to tie it at 4 in the fifth inning. King later flashed the hare-like speed, hustling home for the go-ahead run on Nikki Ditizio's grounder to third. Kellenberg (19-8) twice came back from deficits.
"That's what we're all about," said Kathryn Eiler, whose two-run double made it 8-4 in the seventh. "We always come back with a fire."
Kellenberg advanced to the CHSAA state tournament Tuesday on Staten Island.
The Friars (17-3) went up 3-1 on Lauren Russell's two-run double in the first. King singled in Eiler and Riveira scored on an error to tie it in the second, but St. Anthony's regained the lead on Dom Zummo's RBI double in the second.
Katherine Piorkowski allowed six hits and two walks, but settled in the latter innings to earn the win.
"It's an awesome feeling being on a team this special," said Ditizio, who led the post-game charge in dumping the water cooler on Conrade. "It isn't always pretty, but we're always there at the end."
Slowly and steadily. And that's no fable.