EAST PEORIA -- Danielle Chitkowski picked up the first-place trophy, walked over to her Glenbard South teammates and proudly yelled "Look what I have!"
The ultimate, elusive prize is what.
Bridesmaid no longer, buoyed by Danielle and Stephanie Chitkowski's clutch pitching and Hannah Taylor's 2-run single, Glenbard South beat defending champion Marengo 2-1 in Saturday's Class 3A state championship game at EastSide Centre.
Three of the last four years Glenbard South (37-4) could only watch as others celebrated, the Raiders placing third in 3A twice and fourth once.
Now it's their turn.
"I've been at the other end too many times," Raiders senior Danielle Chitkowski said. "I'm not a cryer, and I was bawling. We fought so hard, we did it and now we got it. This is unbelievable."
Glenbard South's title is its first in a girls team sport. That is extra special to Raiders coach Julie Fonda. The 1996 Glenbard South graduate and ex-Raider star bleeds the red, white and blue. Heck, she even named her dog Raider. Her enthusiasm for all things Glenbard South is only matched by emotions for her players.
"There's seven seniors in front of me who have put their heart and soul into my program and trusted in me along the way," Fonda said. "There aren't enough cliches to come out of my mouth to tell you how proud I am of these girls."
Glenbard South beat Marengo 10-3 in April in Rosemont. The rematch, dominated by pitching, bore no resemblance and was fitting of a championship game.
Scoreless for three innings, Glenbard South broke through in the fourth.
Danielle Chitkowski reached on a leadoff infield single in the hole, and one out later Olivia Ramirez singled with both runners advancing to second and third.
With Marengo moving its infielders way in sensing a bunt, Fonda eschewed her usual signature squeeze, and Lisa Bartha popped up the first pitch. Taylor, though picked up her team, lining an 0-2 pitch from Lindsay Melson into center for a 2-run single.
"Fonda puts us in these situations all the time in practice," Taylor said. "I knew I wanted to get the ball on the ground and try to at least get one run in and it ended up scoring both."
"Like I've said all year long -- it can come from any part of the batting order," Fonda said. "The girls just rally around each other."
Marengo (36-7) pulled within 2-1 the next inning, Reed Karsten singling in a run with one out and taking second on the throw.
Fonda knew who to call on. Like she did in the third inning Friday and in Monday's supersectional, Stephanie Chitkowski was clutch in relief. Chitkowski hit the first batter she faced, then induced a slow roller to third that Ramirez made a nice play on. Chitkowski struck out Megan Semro to end the threat.
"I've been really lucky with pitchers. They get better in jams," Fonda said. "When their backs are against the wall, they bear down."
Stephanie Chitkowski threw 2 innings of hitless relief, striking out two, and wasn't scored upon in the playoffs.
Fonda said it's a "feel" call when to relieve Danielle for Stephanie that can change every game, with input from Raiders catcher Jane Trzaska.
"We talk about every inning is the ball still moving, is she hitting her spots," Fonda said, "and as soon as Jane says it's not moving anymore, why risk it? We have another quality arm and we just go to that. It's worked all year long."
Marengo came in 10-0 in 1-run games this season, winners of its last three playoff games by 2-1 final scores. This time, the Indians came up a hit short. Marengo stranded four runners at third base.
"We put the ball in play and had opportunities to score," Marengo coach Dwain Nance said. "We just didn't come up with that clutch hit."
Glenbard South is the second DuPage County school to win a state softball championship, joining Downers Grove South's 1993 team. Fonda's Raiders are over the hump.
"Winning on Friday was huge. The curse was over," Fonda said. "That game was such momentum coming into today. It made them believe, and that's huge. Believing in themselves and the girls around them, that's half the battle."