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Kellenberg softball team off to a strong start

The Firebirds are unbeaten against Long Island teams so far this season.

Stephanie Conrade puts a ball in play that

Stephanie Conrade puts a ball in play that results in a run in bottom of second inning of a CHSAA softball game against St. Anthony's at Kellenberg on April 12. Kellenberg won, 8-5. Photo Credit: James Escher

The Kellenberg softball team needed to get creative.

With their championship series set for the same day as the Kellenberg varsity banquet last year, the Firebirds were going to have to wait for another day to receive their individual awards. The players were OK with that though, because they still had bigger goals in mind — a CHSAA title.

After falling behind 9-0 to St. Anthony’s May 24, 2018 in the CHSAA championship game, the Firebirds wouldn’t quit. They scored six runs in the final four innings, threatening in the seventh before falling, 9-6.

A few weeks after the loss, the team organized their own banquet with pizza. And talked about the past and the future.

“We talked a lot about how we would move forward and we were so close last year,” said outfielder Stephanie Conrade (of Franklin Square). “We realized with working hard every day and putting our hearts into it, our goal is definitely achievable and we held on to that mentality this year.”

Kellenberg is off to a fast start, winning all 11 games against Long Island opponents, sporting a 9-0 record in the CHSAA and 11-2 overall. With a strong returning core from last year’s team, which won 22 games and only three losses came to eventual state runner-up St. Anthony’s, the Firebirds have trained all offseason in pursuit of their first title since 2014.

The Firebirds also find themselves in a fortunate situation of having multiple standout pitchers to turn to, leaving each pitcher fresh and showing teams different types of arms. Julia Tarantino has 65 strikeouts in 44 innings, allowing only 23 hits with six wins. Lindsey Raimondi has 34 strikeouts in 24 innings, surrendering 18 hits with four wins.

“It’s really nice to know that we have so many people that can go and pitch so it’s not the same thing every day,” said Tarantino, of North Bellmore. “I think it helps keep teams off balance and keeps everyone in a rhythm so if someone has an off day, it keeps our rhythm going.”

Kellenberg has had contributions throughout the lineup, with Julia Piotrowski leading the team with a .500 average, Katie Hand hitting .477 with 10 doubles and 20 RBIs, Daisha Howard hitting .405 with 12 RBIs, Juliana Rigano hitting .378 with 13 RBIs and Caroline Bratichak hitting .361 with 13 RBIs.

“They’re very upbeat about their potential but they take it one game at a time,” coach Ken Conrade said. “We don’t talk about ‘This is our year’ or anything like that.”

But it is a special year for coach Conrade, being it’s the senior season for his daughter, Stephanie.

“It’s definitely fun having your dad as a coach but while we’re on the field, we treat each other as coach and not a dad,” said Stephanie, who has a .510 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases. “It doesn’t really have any impact. I think it’s cool that on the way home or at dinner we can have the conversations but when we’re on the field, we treat each other like coach and player.”

Kellenberg already has an 8-5 victory over St. Anthony’s April 12, and defeated two-time Long Island Class AA champion East Meadow, 14-6, in a non-league game March 25. With the postseason beginning mid-May, the Firebirds just look to continue their strong play into the playoffs.

“We’re just trying to play our absolute best softball we can,” Tarantino said. “We know if we play together as a team, that’s going to take us to where we want to go.”

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