To anyone that might have doubted whether the Cicero-North Syracuse baseball team had the goods to be a Section III Class AA front-runner, a ready answer was provided in Thursday afternoon’s game at Baldwinsville.
Staring down the defending sectional champions in a tight contest, the Northstars made the Bees blink down the stretch, and it led to a 10-4 victory, C-NS’s eighth in a row.
They came into the game as the only local Class AA sides in the state rankings – C-NS at no. 9, B’ville at no. 14. Adding to the anticipation was the fact that this first head-to-head meeting was twice rained out the week before.
Also, both teams had won come-from-behind thrillers the day before, the Northstars rallying from four runs down to edge Liverpool 6-5, the Bees erasing a five-run deficit to get past Syracuse East 7-6.
One big break for C-NS was that it did not have to face either of B’ville’s top pitchers, Scott Blewett and Pat Merryweather, since both had started earlier in the week. Instead, it was right-hander Casey McAllister opposing the Norhtstars’ C.J. Szczesny.
For five innings, it went back and forth. C-NS took advantage of a botched force play in the top of the second to seize a 2-0 lead on Mike Mento’s single that brought home Vince Mallaro and Owen Dziados.
After B’ville cut it to 2-1, the Northstars scored twice more in the third to make it 4-1. Eric Hamilton’s walk and Paul Ludden’s double led to a McAlister wild pitch that scored Hamilton and Mallaro’s RBI single that plated Ludden.
B’ville fought back, though, as Zach Leo’s two-out single in the bottom of the third brought home Josh Savacool and Gabe Levanti. Then Josh Demoski took over in the fourth inning, throwing out Dziados trying to score on Justin Teague’s single to thwart a C-NS rally, and then delivering a sacrifice fly in the bottom of that frame to score Jake Norton and tie it, 4-4.
At that point, right-hander Will Apps made his third relief appearance of the week. Having gone two innings in both of C-NS’s previous games (wins over Syracuse West and Liverpool), Apps showed no fatigue, retiring the Bees in order in the fifth.
Then, in the top of the sixth, the no. 8 and 9 hitters in the C-NS order, Dziados and Teague, put the Northstars ahead to stay with back-to-back doubles off Colin Conklin, B’ville’s third pitcher of the day.
Instead of sitting on that 5-4 lead, C-NS broke it open with five runs in the top of the seventh, Chad McArdell getting it started with a two-run double and the Bees helping out with a pair of errors to keep the long rally going.
Meanwhile, Apps only allowed one baserunner in his three innings of work to pick up the win. And unlike the Bees, C-NS had a mostly clean defensive effort, with shortstop Paul Vinciguerra handling all of his chances and Eric Hamilton making two superb stops at third base to save hits.
These two teams are not done with each other. B’ville gets a shot a payback against C-NS on May 15 at Gillette Field during the last week of the regular season.