Largely due to the timely hits of Jessica Phillips, the Cicero-North Syracuse softball team is two wins away from its second state Class AA championship in three years.
Phillips, one of the holdovers from that 2006 state title team, took charge of Wednesday's Class AA regional final against Shenendehowa at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury.
Despite the Plainswomen's presence as the no. 1 team in the state AA rankings, Phillips and hear battery mate, Erica Gigliotti, teamed up to humble Shen in the course of a 3-1 victory.
Having never trailed at any time in its run to the Section III Class AA title, CNS had to deal with that small bit of adversity when, in the bottom of the second inning, Lexi Williams doubled and came around to score, giving the Plainswomen a 1-0 lead.
Phillips had thrown out Jen Mongiovi trying to steal second -- which had allowed Williams to race home. Given that, Phillips was hoping for a chance at atonement -- and got it quickly.
In the top of the third, CNS stayed patient against Shen pitcher Amanda Ferro, drawing two walks, along with an infield hit, to load the bases with one out.
Up stepped Phillips, who has the power to take any pitch out of the park. But she didn't need that now, and with a solid swing, Phillips singled off Ferro, allowing the tying and-go-ahead runs to score.
CNS led, 2-1 -- and Phillips wasn't done. In her next at-bat in the top of the fifth, Phillips crushed a Ferro offering over the fence in right-center field, doubling the Northstars' margin.
Gigliotti, who allowed seven hits, continued to throw strikes, confident that her defense would come through. Sure enough, CNS did not commit a single error, nabbing several hard-hit shots that, with other teams, might lead to hits and runs.
CNS plays West Babylon (Section XI, Suffolk County, Long Island) Saturday in the Class AA semifinals at 11 a.m. at the BAGSAI complex near Binghamton against the Long Island champions, with the winner to face Clarence or Horseheads in the championship game at 3:30.