On its way to earning the Section III Class AA championship, the Cicero-North Syracuse baseball team prided itself on keeping the opponent's run count low and getting the offense it needed at just the right times.
When neither thing happened in Monday night's AA regional final against Columbia at Alliance Bank Stadium, the Northstars' state title hopes were doomed as it took a 9-1 loss to the Blue Devils.
Columbia, the Section II champions from East Greenbush, a suburb of Albany, did not care one bit that CNS pitching ace Grant Nadeau had gone 2-0 in the playoffs, shutting down Fayetteville-Manlius and Auburn to push his team to a sectional banner.
In fact, in the first inning, the Blue Devils struck the decisive blow. Wild at the outset, Nadeau walked leadoff hitter James Vooris, and then the hits began.
Matt Kasper, Nolan Gaige, Ian Gaule and Ben Tidd all followed with singles. That, plus a fielder's choice, brought home four runs and gave Columbia immediate control.
Another run in the second inning made it 5-0, and Nadeau was out, having surrendered eight hits, all singles. CNS was already in a desperate situation, but got a chance to do something about it in the bottom of the second.
A throwing error sent Brian Hamilton to second base, and Steve Salamone walked on four pitches. Matt Dykeman came up and singled to right. Being aggressive, Hamilton took off for home -- but Vooris, from right field, threw a perfect strike to the plate, and Hamilton was tagged out.
CNS didn't score in that frame, and despite T.J. Jaquay doing a solid job early in his relief stint, he wore down by the fifth inning as Columbia took advantage of two errors to plate three more runs to build the margin to 9-0.
Riley Moonan did double home a run in the bottom of the fifth, but that was all CNS could get against Gaule, who went six innings and earned the win by striking out seven.
So the Northstars' season ended with a 17-9 mark. Nadeau, Jaquay, Salamone, Fred West, Matt West, Aaron Hildreth and Kevan Smith graduate, with Hamilton, Moonan, Rob Renaud, Matt Dykeman and Brian Dykeman among the returning stars for 2010.