One sure sign of spring in this area, other than the lingering chill and occasional snow in April, is the return of Cicero-North Syracuse softball, brimming with high expectations.
And the Northstars began 2007 with the best possible status -- that of defending state Class AA champions, a title earned last June at the Gillette Road complex.
CNS won't host the event this time around, but it has every intention of going back, and started on that journey last Tuesday with an impressive 6-0 victory over the Fayetteville-Manlius Hornets.
Much of head coach Kerry Bennett's team is back from '06. Lucia Meola, Morgan Nandin, Maggie McDonald, Jessica Phillips, Stephanie Mix, Stephanie Sylvia and Katie Carrick form a remarkable core of talent.
Yet no one faces more heat than Brittney Lindley. A part of both the 2004 and '06 title teams, she now takes over as the no. 1 pitcher in her junior campaign, succeeding her older sister, Nicole, after seeing many stints on the mound last spring.
Against F-M, Lindley was close to flawless. She gave up one hit in her complete-game effort, finishing with six strikeouts.
It helped, of course, that CNS jumped all over Hornet pitcher Kasandra Devito in the bottom of the first inning. It got five runs, three of them on McDonald's clutch triple, and cruised the rest of the way. Nandin, Sylvia and Lindley all were credited with RBIs, too.
Bad weather kept the Northstars from playing Rome Free Academy on Thursday, so CNS hopes it clears up this week for spring-break games against Baldwinsville and Oswego.