Sitting on an upturned plastic bucket, Glenbard South softball coach Julie Fonda did everything she could to keep from feeling helpless.
As she had done so many times before, Fonda looked on, watching her Raiders’ crawl closer and closer to the state championship crown.
“I’ve been down there what feels like so many times,” Fonda said. “But this team and this game was different.”
And if the term ‘due’ applies to anyone, it’s Fonda and the Glenbard South softball team.
The time-tested Raiders had qualified for the state tournament four out of the last five seasons--four trips yet no hardware.
“Just sitting there, you really do feel helpless,” Fonda said. “If any team was going to do it, it was this one.”
With Marengo’s tying run in scoring position, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Raiders needed one more out to accomplish what they had been unable to year after year.
“All you can do is have faith in your players, and I did. I knew they would do it,” Fonda said.
Pitcher Stephanie Chitkowski looked toward the plate, collected the signal from catcher Jane Trzaska and delivered her 1-1 pitch.
Stephanie Chitkowski’s pitch was chopped sharply to the charging senior Brianna Meath.
“I wanted that last out so bad. That’s all I wanted, just a chance,” Meath said. “I had been down [to state] so many times before and worked so hard to get there, I wanted that out.”
Corralling the ball on a hop, Meath fired to fellow senior Danielle Chitkowski to seal South’s first championship in program history.
“When I saw it hit to [Meath], I knew that was it. I jumped off the bucket before she even threw it,” Fonda laughed. “I knew she was going to make the out, whether in her glove or laying down and catching it in her teeth, she was going to do it. I couldn’t even write a better ending."
Meath and Danielle Chitkowski were four-year varsity starters who, like Fonda, had been down to state three times before.
“The fact that I got the last grounder and threw it to [Danielle Chitkowski], it’s like in that moment all our hard work had paid off. It was like our gift for four years of coming that close to winning,” Meath said.
Erupting from her obscure seat, Fonda dashed towards Stephanie Chitkowski. Meeting at the third base foul-line, the teary coach embraced her pitcher in a moment she calls a fairy-tale.
“It really is a story book ending, that game and the whole season,” Fonda said with voice stricken with pride. “Every time I think about it I get the chills. Words don’t describe it.
“We were successful because the failures prior. Everything happens for a reason. I believe this group was meant to do it. And how that last out was made really shows that. There aren’t too many times in your life when you feel that much pride in something.”
A sense of pride Fonda won’t soon forget.
“People ask me if I’m still on cloud nine,” Fonda said. “And I tell them absolutely. This is not something you forget, ever.”