If they needed more convincing that their season was a fairy tale come true, Grant's softball players needed only to crane their necks.
Look, up in the sky.
"I was waiting for my catcher," Bulldogs pitcher Caitlyn Moran said. "And then I was like, 'Oh, look. There's a rainbow.'
"It was great," Moran added. "It just added to everything."
A rainbow, which included a definitive Grant red, appeared late in Wednesday's North Suburban Conference championship game in Zion, as the visiting Bulldogs were completing a thrilling, 3-2 win Zion-Benton.
Dreams do come true, Kaitlyn Wold.
"Words can't even describe how excited I am right now," said Grant's junior second baseman, whose RBI single in the fifth snapped a scoreless tie. "I've been dreaming of this since I started playing when I was like 3. ... (dreaming) of something big."
For Prairie Division champ Grant (18-8), which entered the season with only three returning starters in Moran, first baseman Jamie Reiser and catcher Kayla Uhwat, it was the Bulldogs' first NSC title. They were playing in their first conference championship game.
Lake Division champ Zion-Benton (23-5) won the conference championship in 2004, when it was representing the NSC Prairie.
"They beat us," Zion-Benton coach Rick Rymer said of the Bulldogs. "Moran pitched a good game."
The Zee-Bees made Moran and her teammates sweat it out. The hosts trailed 3-0 entering the bottom of the sixth, but pulled within a run thanks to RBI singles by Kyra Lenzi and Meg Crosswhite.
Then in the Z-B seventh, pinch hitter Amara Leith led off with the first walk allowed by Moran. One out later, Janie Torola (2-for-3) singled to put runners on first and second. But Moran got a called-third strike, and then threw a wicked changeup to fan the final hitter.
An excited Moran flung her glove toward Grant's dugout, and she and her teammates celebrated, as the sun broke through a cloud and complemented the rainbow beyond the fence in center field.
"Hey, Coach," a parent said to Grant coach Mike Dolezal. "Did you order up the rainbow?"
If he could have for his players, he would have.
"It's all the girls," Dolezal said. "Rick Rymer runs a great program. He does a great job, and he's a class act. The (Zion-Benton) program here is a class act. It's nice to beat a school like this. We really earned it. These girls really fought."
Take Moran. She struck out 10 and allowed only 6 hits (all singles). The junior right-hander had a 1-hitter through 5 innings, before the Zee-Bees touched her for the 2 runs on 4 hits in the sixth.
"Caitlyn pitched her heart out," Dolezal said.
Moran's changeup buckled knees more than a couple of times.
"It works," Moran said with a modest shrug. "I don't throw that fast so you got to throw them off somehow, and the changeup does the job."
Zion-Benton sophomore pitcher Claire Crane was equally tough early before issuing one-out walks to Taylor Rossi and Moran in the fifth. Wold then fouled off a pair of attempted bunts. When that failed, she singled off the glove of shortstop Torola, who made a diving attempt.
"I was nervous," said Wold, laughing. "I didn't want to let my team down."
The hot-hitting Reiser (2-for-3) followed with a single, and then Bri Dreschler (3-for-4) made it three straight hits, driving in 2 big insurance runs.
"We all pick each other up," Moran. "That's probably what every teams says, but we all get along. We work really well together."
And the Bulldogs don't beat themselves with mental and physical errors. They didn't make an error, while outhitting Zion-Benton 8-6.
"Our defense is solid," Wold said. "And when we want to hit, then we hit."
"Defensively, we just don't implode," Dolezal said. "We don't make mistakes in the field. It's been like that all year. If you don't make mistakes, you don't have those big innings."
Instead, you deliver them. And keep living the dream.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.