In arguably its most crowded stretch of the season, the Cicero-North Syracuse softball team continually turned away attempts at seizing its throne -- sometimes with ease, other times with great effort. It also moved closer to a milestone.
By far, the greatest effort was exerted last Saturday, at Oswego, where a tense, eight-inning duel ended with the Northstars edging past the Buccaneers 3-2.
Oswego, off to a 4-0 start, did not flinch when CNS went in front. They traded runs in the first inning, and when the Northstars went back in front, the Bucs stayed patient, then tied it in the bottom of the sixth.
So it went into extra frames at 2-2. In the top of the eighth, Brittney Lindley tagged a single off Abby Martin. She then moved into scoring position, and when Lucia Meola smacked her own single, Lindley raced home.
Again protecting a one-run lead, Lindley made it stick in the bottom of the eighth, giving CNS its fourth win in a span of 48 hours.
Two of those victories had come on Friday night, at Gillette Field, where CNS met Rome Free Academy for the first time since last year's spellbinding Section III Class AA final, won 1-0 by Jessica Phillips' eighth-inning home run.
Phillips would play a central role again as the Northstars swept the Black Knights, prevailing 6-3 in the opener, then 15-0 in the nightcap.
The modest opening game saw Lindley surrender two runs in the top of the first on Alyssa Karsten's home run, only to have CNS answer with five runs over the next two innings, which was more than enough.
All told, Lindley gave up just four hits. Stephanie Mix doubled and drove in two runs, while Lindley, Maggie McDonald and Morgan Nandin earned one RBI apiece.
Quiet in that first game, Phillips grabbed center stage in the second game, propelling CNS to an 11-run first inning that erased all doubt about the outcome.