Bathed in warm and generous sunshine, the East Syracuse-Minoa baseball team lay claim to its first Section III Class A championship in 29 years on May 29 when it ousted Mexico 6-4 at Rome's DeLutis Field.
A week later, when the Spartans returned to action in last Tuesday's Class A regional playoffs against Section II champion Ichabod Crane, everything had changed.
Now ESM was on the artificial turf of Alliance Bank Stadium, drenched by cold rain and gusty winds -- and unable to continue its magical run as the Riders prevailed, 5-0, with patience and precise pitching from a first-rate freshman.
They were supposed to play the night before, but rain forced a 24-hour postponement. That did nothing, though, to improve the temperature or conditions, and that gloom seemed to hang over ESM for most of the contest.
Brian Para was on the mound, just as he had been in the sectional final, with the same senior-dominated lineup behind him, against a Crane squad that had just four seniors and relied heavily on its younger players.
Yet it was Para that struggled from the gate, and the Riders that showed unusual patience and maturity.
In the first two innings, Para, adjusting to the raw conditions, issued six walks. Somehow, he escaped from those jams with just a single run allowed, keeping ESM in the game.
The experienced Spartan hitters hoped to eat up Josh Ingham, Crane's freshman pitcher. But the ninth-grader showed remarkable control and location from the start, holding ESM to one hit for the first four innings.
In the bottom of the second, a fielding error allowed Para to reach third base with no one out. But Ingham escaped the jam by retiring Sean Halligan on a failed squeeze bunt, striking out Paul Lepkowski and coaxing Joe Gigliotti to ground out.