Jun 02, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Amy Van Hoven dealt with two choices in the matter of a few seconds during the first inning of the Cicero-North Syracuse softball team’s duel with Liverpool for the Section III Class AA championship Saturday at Hopkins Road Park.
First, Van Hoven had to choose whether to tag up from third base on Jessy Silfer’s fly ball. She said that, with the game scoreless, it was a chance to put her team in front, so she decided to take off.
The throw was low, but to the plate on time, and Van Hoven had another decision to make, to slide and try to dislodge the ball from Liverpool catcher Nicole Cerrone, or do something else.
“I knew if I slid, I would be out,” she said. “So I jumped. It was more of a reaction than anything else.”
That’s right, Van Hoven jumped over Cerrone’s tag attempt and put her foot on home plate, scoring the first run and sparking the Northstars to another dominant performance as it shut out the Warriors 12-0 for its third consecutive sectional AA title.
Any runs were going to be ample support for junior pitching ace Sydney O’Hara. In the first three innings, O’Hara struck out seven of the nine batters she faced. By game’s end, she had a one-hitter in the books, including 10 strikeouts and two walks allowed.
The game broke open in the bottom of the third inning. Sydney Harbaugh opened the rally with a bunt single, stole second and raced home on Van Hoven’s double. O’Hara’s single plated Van Hoven and made it 3-0.
Then, with runners on first and second, Morgan Phillips hit a fly ball that was dropped in the outfield, allowing two more runs to score. Another run came home on a dropped third strike, expanding the margin to 6-0.
And more was to follow, as Van Hoven drove in two more runs in the fourth and fifth innings with a single and sacrifice fly, and Brittany Paul provided an exclamation point by belting a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth.
Getting to the final required both C-NS and Liverpool to win Class AA semifinals last Wednesday at Hopkins Road with familiar opponents – but one different ending.
Liverpool held off no. 6 seed West Genesee 5-4 in one semifinal, avenging last year’s semifinal defeat to the Wildcats, though not without some late worries.
The Warriors got to WG pitcher Morgan Nichols for three runs in the bottom of the first. And it stayed 3-0 until the top of the sixth, when the Wildcats poked across a run, only to have Liverpool answer by scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth.
By that point, Alicia Hansen had picked up three hits, scored twice and earned a pair of RBIs to anchor the Warriors’ lineup. Carrie Stoddard and Brianna Harris each had a double and RBI
Those two runs proved pivotal when WG, sparked by Nichols’ solo home run, put up three runs in the top of the seventh, threatening a rally similar to the semifinal 12 months ago. But Nicoletti stayed calm and got the final outs.
Just before that, C-NS met Oswego in the other semifinal, just as it had in 2011, and once again the Northstars prevailed, 5-0, in a manner quite familiar to fans and opponents alike.
Harbaugh, Van Hoven, Paul and O’Hara all reached base in a two-run first inning. Another run followed in the second, and C-NS scored twice more in the third.
Paul, with three hits and an RBI, led the way as O’Hara, Van Hoven and Jenna Tartaro also drove in runs. Sydney Harbaugh and Brooke Szabo managed two hits apiece.
Meanwhile, O’Hara spun another masterpiece in the pitcher’s circle, holding Oswego to four hits, of which only two reached the outfield, and walking one as she amassed 14 strikeouts.
C-NS will face Section II champion Shenendehowa Tuesday in the Class AA regional final at Veeder Park in Colonie, near Albany. The winner advances to next Saturday’s state final four in Queensbury, where the Northstars have lost in the state title game each of the last two years.
O’Hara said the difference between this team, and the ones that fell just short of the ultimate prize in 2010 and 2011, are distinct.
“This year we’re a lot more aggressive and loose, and we play a lot better defense,” she said. “(Now) we have to be more patient and stay up at all times.”