With elements of both excitement and familiarity, the Fayetteville-Manlius baseball team commenced its run in the Section III Class AA playoffs.
Simply put, the no. 7 seed Hornets outlasted no. 10 seed Rome Free Academy in last Tuesday's opening round, staging a dramatic late comeback, then ousting the Black Knights 6-2 on Ethan Braddock's 11th-inning grand slam.
For a long while, any amount of hitting by the Hornets appeared unlikely. RFA pitching ace Mark Capponi blanked F-M over the first six innings, constantly working his way out of trouble.
Meanwhile, Hornets pitcher Joe Sinopoli kept the Black Knights off the board until the fourth inning, when it scored twice off hits from Tim Abone and Tim Saccento.
Entering the bottom of the seventh inning, F-M still trailed by that 2-0 margin. Three outs from the end of its season, the Hornets would turn it around.
Pat McClure began the rally, connecting on a solo home run. Moments later, with the tying run in scoring position, Ryan Godfrey's single made it 2-2, sending the game to extra frames.
They went through the eighth, ninth and 10th innings without resolution as Scott Miller (in relief of Sinopoli) and Tim Abone (in relief of Capponi) kept the game even.
Finally, in the bottom of the 11th, F-M loaded the bases, bringing up Braddock. Needing just a hit to end it, Braddock parked Abone's pitch over the fence.
This sent F-M into the AA quarterfinal against no. 2 seed Cicero-North Syracuse at Gillette Field -- the same facility where the Hornets had twice lost to the Northstars the week before.
Even with a fierce desire to reverse those results, the Hornets could not pull it off, shut down by CNS pitcher Grant Nadeau in a 3-0 loss.
For his part, Hornets pitcher Ryan Brown had a complete game, too. His only main slip came in the first inning, when CNS scored twice, all the runs that Nadeau would need.