Jun 01, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In recent years, the Cicero-North Syracuse baseball team did not fare well in the Section III Class AA playoffs as a highly-regarded favorite with a gaudy record.
That wasn’t the case in 2009. Even with a no. 2 seed in the AA tournament, the Northstars, at 11-8 overall, didn’t evoke fear in anyone, even if it had played well down the stretch to grab that high seed and first-round bye.
Free from at least some form of pressure, CNS used a pair of pressure-packed wins at Gillette Field to advance to Tuesday’s championship game against Auburn at Alliance Bank Stadium.
The Northstars started in an ideal manner in last Thursday’s AA quarterfinal against no. 7 seed Fayetteville-Manlius, shutting out the Hornets 3-0 at Gillette Field.
F-M had used an 11th-inning grand slam by Ethan Braddock to beat Rome Free Academy in the first round. But CNS didn’t worry about them, having beaten the Hornets twice at Gillette the week before.
Quickly, the Northstars took charge, scoring twice in the first inning off F-M pitcher Ryan Brown as Riley Moonan earned an RBI. It later added a sixth-inning run as Moonan and Matt West each got three hits, with John Howell and Aaron Hildreth scoring runs.
Mostly, though, the show belonged to lefty ace Grant Nadeau. All game long, Nadeau baffled F-M’s lineup, holding them to five hits in his third consecutive complete game as he struck out four and gave up just one walk.
This led to the AA semifinal Sunday at Gillette against two-time defending champion Utica Proctor, the no. 3 seed who needed Mike Scotellaro’s seventh-inning home run to eliminate West Genesee in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
Here, though, it would be CNS coming up with the big-inning late hits, plus a great pitching effort from T.J. Jaquay, as it ended the Raiders’ reign in a 5-3 decision.
With winds gusting more than 25 miles an hour, Jaquay and his UP counterpart, Ryan Donovan, controlled things in the early going.
However, CNS inched in front 1-0 in the bottom of the second when Kevan Smith led off with a double, Brian Hamilton singled and Steve Salamone hit into a double play that scored Smith.
Proctor tied it in the fourth at 1-1, but CNS answered in the bottom of that frame as Matt West doubled, then raced home on Billy Werksman’s single right over the third-base line to put the Northstars back in front 2-1.
Jaquay stayed cool, stranding two Proctor runners in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings as the Raiders could only score once, in the sixth, to tie it again at 2-2.
That sixth inning would prove decisive. Smith, who was three-for-three, led off with a single, and Brian Dykeman ran for him, going to second on a sacrifice bunt and third on a wild pitch. When Salamone hit a perfectly placed single between first and second, Dykeman cruised home with the go-ahead run.
Now up 3-2, CNS loaded the bases with two outs, and Aaron Hildreth delivered another well-place hit to center, bringing home two runs — and that would prove to be the difference.
In the top of the seventh, Jaquay tired, walking his first two hitters. Bobby Renaud relieved him and promptly struck out Scotellaro and Vin Gaetano. However, a walk and error produced a run, cutting the Northstars’ lead to two as the tying run got into scoring position.
Renaud coaxed one more grounder, left of shortstop John Howell. Grabbing it, Howell threw low to Fred West at first, but he scooped it out, just in time to get the runner — and send CNS to the title game.
The Northstars met Auburn once this season, on April 21 at Gillette, the Maroons prevailing by a score of 6-3.