By John Knebels
NORRISTOWN – The end is almost near.
It’s not pleasant, and it’s not popular. But it is what it is.
“I think most people are past the shock of it,” said junior Nikki Troisi. “It’s still sad, but we are trying to focus on the present and deal with the end when it comes.”
Troisi is the starting pitcher on Kennedy-Kenrick High School’s softball team. Slated to close its doors this June, next year Kennedy-Kenrick will join with Pottstown’s St. Pius X High School, which is also closing, to form the brand new Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford.
Several Wolverines plan on transferring to JPII. Since they will see some familiar faces, the transition might be a tad easier.
But just like many other students in similar situations, emotions are running high.
“Most students love their school, so anytime it closes it has to be tough,” Troisi said. “We’ll always have a lot of great memories.”
The Wolverine softball squad is hoping to create some lasting images as the post-season beckons. Through the first two-thirds of the season, K-K has established itself as a championship contender, but certainly not a favorite.
The season has already included several highlights, the most glowing arguably being Troisi’s hurling of consecutive perfect games against Upper Merion and Neumann-Goretti.
For Kennedy-Kenrick to be successful in the playoffs, Troisi needs to be somewhere close to dominant. Of course, since pitching dominates the sport of softball, sometimes to the point of annoyance, the same rings true for the rest of the Catholic League title hopefuls.
In a league game against West Catholic May 4, it was senior day. Barring an invitation to play a contest in the playoffs, Kennedy-Kenrick was playing its final game at the “Wolverine Den,” a field that has no rival because of its comfort and beauty, plus bells and whistles, which include a loudspeaker that booms out the names of batters as they step into the box.
After the Wolverines handily defeated the Burrs 15-0, K-K coach John Bilella Jr. addressed his players. Actually, he found himself talking to parents, family, friends and numerous former players who, as one penned on a poster board, “wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
“This was a good day,” said Bilella, “but it was also a sad day.”
Since 1993, the K-K program has betrayed the image of a comparatively smaller-enrolled student body by amassing one Catholic League championship (2002), five trips to the league final, 13 playoff appearances, a PIAA District 12 AA title and seven Catholic League most valuable player awards.
Since taking over in 1996, Bilella has orchestrated almost all of Kennedy-Kenrick’s on-field success while constantly infusing pride in what it means to be a Wolverine softball player.
“It really hasn’t been a job,” said Bilella, whose daughter Talia was a dominant pitcher and the 1996 league MVP. “The girls have left the community a profound sense of how softball should be played. We are all proud of the K-K softball teams of the past, and I shall cherish all of the great moments we spent together as a team.”
From the enthusiasm of the crowd that witnessed the final regular-season game in K-K’s short but illustrious softball history, Bilella is far from alone.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.