To get to their showdown for the Section III Class AA championship Saturday at the Gillette Road complex, the Liverpool and Cicero-North Syracuse softball teams both had to go through tough semifinal tests last Wednesday at Hopkins Road Park -- which they passed with back-to-back shutouts.
Going first, the top seed and defending champion Warriors got the hits that counted in a 2-0 victory over no. 5 seed Oswego. Following that up, the no. 3 seed Northstars rolled past no. 2 seed Rome Free Academy 7-0.
Liverpool pitcher Erin Squairs allowed more hits (seven) than did Oswego's Lauren Corradino (five). The difference, of course, was that the Buccaneers could not take any advantage of these opportunities, while the Warriors did.
Mostly, Squairs pulled off this feat by recording nine strikeouts, and her teammates helped by getting single runs off Corradino in the fourth and fifth innings to break the 0-0 stalemate. Sharon Dennis and Beth Lamison both doubled and got credit for an RBI.
CNS beat Rome Free Academy for the third time this spring (it had also swept an April doubleheader with the Black Knights) by unleashing both its power and its pitching prowess.
In the top of the third inning, Jessica Phillips struck the game's decisive blow, a three-run home run off RFA pitcher Courtney Creedon -- this at the same Hopkins facility where her extra-inning home run beat the Black Knights in a 1-0 sectional final two years ago.
Phillips also doubled, while Lucia Meola had four of the Northstars' other nine hits and joined Brittany Paul with two RBIs apiece. This was more than pitcher Erica Gigliotti needed, as the CNS lefty tossed a four-hitter, her second consecutive playoff shutout to go with the one she threw in the quarterfinals against Auburn on May 31.
As this was going on, Westhill's Tony Secreti nearly got a perfect game as the Warriors, for the first time in school history, claimed a sectional crown in softball by beating Marcellus 4-0 at Gillette.
Secreti retired the first 20 batters she faced, piling up nine strikeouts. Only Kelly Harris' seventh-inning single prevented perfection, as Westhill got two runs in both the third and fifth innings to go in front.
Westhill will return to Gillette Saturday at 2:30 to meet Canastota for the overall Class B crown. the Raiders snagged the B-2 championship by beating Adirondack 6-3 Wednesday at Hopkins Road.