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.