A full season of work, featuring 23 consecutive victories, had pushed the Cicero-North Syracuse softball team to the same position where, one season ago, dreams of the program's sixth state Class AA championship had fallen just short.
Yet the same thing would happen again here, as the Northstars lost to Section I power John Jay-East Fishkill 8-2 in the AA state final Saturday at the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury, the Patriots using a six-run outburst in the sixth inning to prevail.
CNS and John Jay were familiar in each other, having played May 8 in the semifinals of the Morabito Tournament in Binghamton. That time, the Northstars beat the Patriots 5-4, the closest call it had faced during an undefeated regular season.
So when the two sides reunited in Queensbury with a state championship, CNS had no illusion about the challenge as it ace, Sydney O'Hara, went up against John Jay's Amanda Gisonni.
The Northstars manufactured a run without a hit in the top of the first inning, Sydney Harbaugh reaching base on an error, moving to second and third on a fielder' choice and steal and scoring on another grounder.
In the bottom of the third, the Patriots put runners on second and third for sophomore Tateum Valentine, who drilled a single that plated both runs and gave John Jay a 2-1 lead.
Again, Harbaugh struck in the fifth, beating out an infield hit and stealing second base. Amy Van Hoven's sacrifice bunt put Harbaugh on third, and Brittany Paul's well-placed bunt allowed Harbaugh to race home with the tying run.
So it was 2-2 going into the bottom of the sixth. O'Hara faced sophomore Vicky Lattanzio, who belted a pitch over the fence for a solo home run, and CNS was behind.
But it didn't stop there. An error ignited a larger rally as, with two on, Valentine jumped on an O'Hara pitch and sent it over the center-field fence, the three-run home run giving her five RBIs for the game.