Rising from a no. 3 seed in the Section III playoffs, the Cicero-North Syracuse softball team came within a single victory of earning its fifth state Class AA championship.
The Northstars' quest finally ended Saturday afternoon in Waterloo, where it encountered Bay Shore, from Section XI (Suffolk County, Long Island) and took a 4-0 defeat to the Marauders.
That came on the tail end of a memorable doubleheader for CNS, who a few hours earlier had knocked off Section I chamipon North Rockland 2-1 in as exciting a Class AA state semifinal as could be imagined.
The semifinal quickly became a classic pitcher's contest between the Northstars' Sarah Salamone and the Red Raiders' Krystn Benson after North Rockland got to Salamone for a run in the first inning. Destiny Jones reached due to an error, moved to second on a groundout and raced home on Amanda Bender's single.
Salamone shut down the Red Raiders the rest of the way, only allowing three total hits and leaving runners on base in the second and third innings to prevent North Rockland from building on that 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, CNS could do little against Benson. Entering the bottom of the seventh, it had just three hits, and Benson had recorded 10 strikeouts. When Benson retired the first two batters, CNS was on the brink of elimination and was at the bottom of the batting order, far from its power sources -- the likes of Brittany Paul, Jenn Huff and Sydney O'Hara.
What happened next will long be remembered as one of the high points in the Northstars' rich softball history.
Sam Cirillo, charged with keeping CNS alive, hit a bloop single. Then Lindsay Flanagan hit a bloop single. Then Lindsey Silfer hit a bloop single. Three hits, all of the same understated ilk, loading the bases with Chelsea Szabo stepping up.