Completing a 4-0 sweep of its American division games, the North Syracuse 13-15 All-Star team is just two wins from the championship at the Babe Ruth World Series in Monticello, Ark.
That fourth win came Monday afternoon, when North Syracuse mostly relied on a big third inning and a strong all-around effort from Nick Pilotti to dismiss White Hall, a local team from Arkansas, in a 7-2 decision.
By winning its first three games of the tournament, North Syracuse was assured of a berth in the elimination round. But a fourth win would clinch a bye into Thursday's semifinals, so North Syracuse was not in a mood to let up, even as searing heat continued - they've played in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees ever since it started.
White Hall, without a win in three games, kept North Syracuse off the board in the early going, but pitcher Ryan O'Kane did his part, too, blanking White Hall early.
It was still 0-0 when, in the bottom of the third, North Syracuse broke it open. With Baldwinsville's Brett Charbonneau on base, his Bees teammate, Gabe Levanti, drilled a single to bring Charbonneau home with the game's first run.
Continuing to build momentum, North Syracuse loaded the bases. Then Pilotti cleared them, his double scoring three runs to make it 4-0 before heading home when Pat Wright doubled.
White Hall cut the margin in half to 4-2 in the fifth inning, chasing O'Kane, who had five strikeouts before turning the game over to Pilotti.
Not only did Pilotti strike out three in his three-inning shutout stint on the mound, he offered further heroics at the plate in the bottom of the sixth with a second double that led to Wright's clinching two-run home run.
Now North Syracuse can rest and, more importantly, find some shade (and air conditioning) from the searing Southern heat before playing in Thursday night's 8 p.m. semifinal against an opponent yet to be determined, the winner to move to Friday night's final at 6:30. Dan Brower and O'Kane are set to pitch those two games, according to head coach Dom Caruso.