Another softball season winds down - and once again, archrivals Liverpool and Cicero-North Syracuse are set to meet with the Section III Class AA championship on the line.
Just getting to this latest title showdown proved enough of a chore, though.
First, they both needed sixth-inning rallies to go in front during the May 30 quarterfinals -- the Warriors over Central Square, the Northstars over Fayetteville-Manlius.
Then came the Class AA semifinals last Wednesday night at Hopkins Road Park, exciting and tense contests where Liverpool squeaked by Baldwinsville 1-0 and CNS made a stirring rally to beat Oswego 3-2 in 11 innings.
Going first, Liverpool sought to avenge two regular-season losses to B'ville, but it wouldn't be easy as it quickly became a duel between pitching aces -- Tiffany Sampere for the Warriors, Cassie Williams for the Bees.
They went to the bottom of the fourth inning still 0-0, but Liverpool loaded the bases for Erin Squairs. Though she grounded into a force play, Squairs still brought Sara Tram home with the go-ahead run.
And Sampere would protect it. She struck out nine B'ville hitters in her complete-game shutout, overcoming Williams' good work to put the Warriors back in the final.
CNS followed against Oswego, a team it had rallied to beat in 10 innings back on April 18 at Gillette. They would go even longer (three hours) this time around, with Morgan Nandin responsible for the comeback.
Oswego jumped out in front with single runs in the third and fourth innings, only to have CNS pull back within 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Nandin's single brought home Lucia Meola.
So it remained until the seventh inning. Oswego was within one out of ending the Northstars' reign -- but with the bases loaded and two away, Nandin's hard-hit grounder got mishandled, and Sydney Harbaugh scored the tying run.
They went through the eighth and ninth innings without a run, Sarah Salamone doing a superb job in relief after replacing Erica Gigliotti in the top of the third. Even when the runner got placed on second base in the 10th inning (international rules), neither side could convert.
Finally, in the bottom of the 11th, Brittany Paul's sacrifice bunt moved Lindsay Flanagan to third. A walk and fielder's choice followed. Then Jennifer Huff hit a grounder ---and when it got booted, Flanagan scored, and CNS would meet Liverpool once more.