Two innings into his mound assignment in Wednesday's Section III Class AA baseball final at Alliance Bank Stadium, Liverpool pitcher Alex Caruso was, by his own admission, shaky in the biggest start of his high school career.
"I was a little nervous," he said. "I just had to bear down."
Caruso did bear down, he and his teammates started to hit like they have all season - and five innings later, Caruso found himself at the bottom of a celebratory pile near the mound as the Warriors rallied to beat rival Cicero-North Syracuse 9-5 for its first sectional title since 2006.
"It's awesome to win this and bring it home to Liverpool," said Caruso.
Head coach Fred Terzini praised his team's resilience in the face of a four-run deficit against an opponent of the Northstars' caliber.
"It's always impressive to come back, but 10 times as much against someone like CNS," said Terzini. "These players deserve everything they have earned."
Earning it required perseverance after CNS took early advantage of the left-handed Caruso's nerves. Riley Moonan led off the game with a single, went to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Brian Hamilton's single. Another single led to Mark Centolella's RBI grounder that made it 2-0.
Moonan returned an inning later and, with two on and one out, singled home Corey Burrows and Mark Sherlock, doubling CNS's margin to 4-0, but Caruso got out of that jam, stranded two more runners in the third and proceeded to retire 11 batters in a row.
Liverpool, meanwhile, got to CNS left-hander Joe Pokrentowski (whom it beat 4-3 back on May 9) in the bottom of the second. Pat Wright, who drove in all four runs in that first meeting, started it with a single and, after Andrew Schreyack walked, Tyler Bliss hit an RBI double, and Corbin Gapski's two-run double quickly cut the deficit to 4-3.