EAST PEORIA -- Palatine senior captains Sarah Grossman, Maddie Craver, Brittany Padden and Grace Seiffert all came in as freshmen four years ago, the same year Nicole Pauly Capalbo began her career as the Pirates' softball coach.
"Coming in with Pauly as freshmen, we knew by the end of the four years we could do something special," Grossman said.
And the Pirates made sure Saturday's final game of an already special season had a special ending.
Grossman fired a 2-hitter with 6 strikeouts to shut out York 2-0 on Saturday in the Class 4A state softball third-place game at the Eastside Centre.
York freshman Lauren Derkowski (19-7) also struck out six and gave up only 4 hits in a nifty pitchers' duel.
Like she has all season, Grossman (23-3) only wanted to hand out the credit to her teammates.
"My defense was behind me and we were hitting the ball," said the Milwaukee School of Engineering recruit. "Especially, Maddie (Craver), my best friend since first grade."
Third baseman Craver made a terrific leaping catch of Krya Kroll's rocket to lead off the fourth inning. She also made two nice putouts at third, one on a perfect throw from center fielder Grace Huff to catch a runner trying to go from first to third on a single.
The other was when she took a short toss from shortstop Emily Parrott and stayed with the tag, catching the runner over-sliding the base.
"Maddie's defense was amazing," Capalbo said. "And Emily (Parrott) made a nice play when she fielded a grounder and raced to second for a force out.
"All around, I couldn't have asked for a better game to end the season."
It ended a history-making season for the Pirates (30-6).
"If someone would have told me my freshman year that we'd be going to state my senior year, I would have told them they're crazy," said Craver, a Wheaton College recruit and Mid-Suburban West co-Player of the Year. "It took a lot of work from the beginning but we were all ready to do it. I'm so amazed and thankful for this team for getting us here. All I have to say is 'Wow.' "
"It's unbelievable," Padden added. "It's been a great experience and great to make history with this program. The whole team has worked so hard and it's nice to see it finally pay off."
Second baseman Seiffert was coming off a basketball season in which her team won the MSL West under coach Mark Johnson.
"It's been an amazing four years where we got to accomplish so many of our goals as a team," Seiffert said. "It's been an amazing ride with the seniors and our coaching staff."
York (28-14-1) looked at things the same way, as it rode the arm of freshman ace Lauren Derkowski (19-7) for most of the season.
"This has been such an accomplishment," said the Michigan recruit. "We are so close and there are so many great players on this team, and all the seniors who we are going to miss so much. We've all become such a close friends.
"I think this will motivate us more and it will make me push harder to do better and help my team as much as I can. Next year, we're going to try and get right back here."
The Dukes were here in 2013, also taking fourth place. They advanced to the Elite Eight in 2003.
"I told them to keep their heads up," said second-year coach Elizabeth Munn, who guided the Dukes to their first conference title in 15 years. "We've had only two other teams at York which made it to state. We have to keep moving forward."
Leadoff batter Katherine Karnatz (2-for-2, walk) had both of the hits for York.
"I am looking forward to the future," Munn said. " Lauren (Derkowski) is returning and a couple of more starters as well."
Munn stressed that seniors Anne Grasse (Marquette to study), Madison Collins (Carleton College, Minn., to play), Jane Moran (Illinois, and will try to walk on), Mia Tran (Elmhurst College), Lauren Wojcik (Nebraska, to study), Andrea Meagher (Marian College, Wis.) and Kroll (Western Illinois, to play) will be greatly missed.
"It's really a great group of seniors," Munn said. "They were a real special group. I told them at the beginning of the season they could go far, and they did. The played well and played their hearts out. They did a great job and that's all that I can expect."
Capalbo expects her returning players to benefit from this weekend.
"It was a good experience for them," she said. "In the future, if we can get here again, they'll know what to expect."
Grossman got the only run she needed in the first inning.
After two were out, Parrott drew a walk and stole second. Classmate Amanda Stanczuk's single to left got Parrott home.
The Pirates gained an insurance run in the top of the sixth, once again with to two outs.
Junior Rhiann Dick hustled out an infield hit to third base and advanced to second on a groundout. She alertly scored from second base on an infield error on junior catcher Anna Selleck's popup.
The Pirates committed only 1 error.
"I know we made some errors (3) on Friday but I think our defense really locked it down this game," Capalbo said. "It's hard to come back after a performance like that so I'm proud the team could forget about what they did the previous day and focus on this game.
"York is a really good hitting team so Sarah did a good job hitting her spots and trusting her teammates."
Teammates she will never forget.
"We played a little too much as individuals (in Friday's 7-0 loss to Plainfield North) and made the game a little bigger than it was," Grossman said. "But today we played together as a team, and it worked."
Grossman and her three fellow seniors expect to return early next school year for an assembly to honor the third-place finishers.
"It will be nice to be recognized by the school and see the banner we are getting for the gym and for years to come," Padden said. "This is a great way to end my career with Palatine softball."
"We're going to miss the these four seniors," Capalbo said. "They put Palatine softball back on the map. Only two Class 4A softball teams get to end the season on a win so we were fortunate to be one of them."
Pirates assistant coach Kristen Proffitt said the Pirates were also fortunate to have the services of former Eastern softball player Jen Dick (Rhiann's mom), who coached many of the Pirates prior to high school.
"She ran the Palatine Stingrays and the Illinois Fever and coached players like Huff, Parrott, Reed, Dick, Seiffert and Selleck," Proffitt said. "She is a huge part of this victory and deserves accolades."