When it started 4-3, the East Syracuse-Minoa softball team had done little to demonstrate that it could still contend with the best sides in the OHSL Freedom division.
All that changed, though, in a Thursday-afternoon duel with Phoenix, where the Spartans put an end to the Firebirds' season-opening, eight-game win streak with a 1-0 victory in eight innings.
Just the day before, Phoenix had pummeled unbeaten Homer 9-2 with a nine-run fourth inning to take first place in the league standings, so it had an immense amount of confidence going into ESM.
However, Lauren Daly would take care of that problem, as she and Phoenix counterpart Jill Murphy settled into a pitching duel that would consume the entire afternoon.
For seven innings of regulation, neither side would break through. ESM got seven hits off Murphy, but couldn't convert on its scoring chances, while Phoenix met the same level of frustration as Daly threw a five-hitter.
ESM maintained the 0-0 duel in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of that frame, the Spartans got the winning run on base, and Mallory Martino slapped a hit that brought the runner home.
Prior to this, ESM was 1-1 for the week. The Spartans appeared to be in good shape late in last Monday's game at Mexico, but one bad inning led to a 6-2 loss to the Tigers.
Mexico scored twice in the top of the first inning. ESM got even with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, even though it had just four hits all afternoon.
In the top of the seventh, the Tigers broke that tie by getting to Daly for four runs, something ESM could not answer as Rachel Verdilova got the win.
ESM did recover in a non-league game Tuesday against Henninger, beating the Black Knights by a score of 7-3.
Starting in the second inning, ESM got runs in each of the next four frames, helped by Henninger's eight errors.
Martino pitched all seven innings to get the win, surrendering just four hits along the way. Daly got a rest from her mound work, but still found time to double and produce two RBIs as Erin Welch also drove in two runs. Kim Cordell and Jamie Evans got one RBI apiece.