Fans of the Sacred Heart softball team showed that they literally worshiped the ground the players walked on.

So much so that some scooped up handfuls of dirt from the field where the Spartans had, just moments earlier, celebrated their first CHSAA state championship. Emma Nidermaier’s 11-year-old sister, Cailin, placed each scoop she gathered off the mound inside plastic bags.

“She brought home three bags of dirt from the field,” said Emma, the Spartans’ leftfielder. “But she wouldn’t tell me what she was planning on doing with them.”

At the team’s end-of-the-year barbecue a few weeks later, Cailin presented each player and coach with a framed photo of the team holding the state championship plaque. Glued around the border of the frame was the dirt from the mound.

“It’s a piece of the day,” said senior co-captain Michaela Ernst. “It’s something tangible from this season that we can have for the rest of our lives.”

The finest season in the history of the Sacred Heart softball program began with a 14-hour drive. During Easter break, the team made a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where they played doubleheaders, further solidified their team bond, and began to show what they were capable of.

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“This isn’t a team where one or two or three players do everything for the team,” pitcher Claire O’Brien said. “There was 16 girls on the roster and everyone contributes in some way.”

From wild cards to captains, there was no telling who might step up and deliver. One day it was Janae Barracato hitting a three-run homer in the first inning of the semifinals. The next it was Nidermaier making a diving catch in left to give Sacred Heart its first league title.

O’Brien then pitched two gems in the state tournament. She got all the run support she needed in the first inning of the state final when Marissa Braito led off with a triple and then scored on a two-run single by Kara Colgan.

One out away from reaching their ultimate goal, O’Brien battled through a 16-pitch at-bat before inducing a grounder to third. Barracato corralled the ball and threw to Kayla Fitzpatrick at first, giving Sacred Heart its long-awaited state championship.

“We just had this communal feeling of wanting to achieve this goal and leave a legacy for the softball team at our school,” said Fitzpatrick, a co-captain. “That just brought us together and helped us win in the end.”

The memories of that win, along with the dirt on which they achieved it, will forever be captured in the picture frame that each member of the team received.

“It’s a great memento to remind everybody of the wonderful time we had,” Emma Nidermaier said. “It will help us remember what we went through together, the friendships that we made and the great success that we had.”