Jun 05, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Section III’s athletes are going after state championships this week, from boys lacrosse in Pittsford to baseball in Binghamton to girls lacrosse at Cortland to softball at Queensbury to track and field at Middletown to girls golf at Delhi.
They do so amid a year where, everywhere you look, from the college to professional ranks, local athletes are seizing their moments in the spotlight and shining brightly.
Maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates will finally have a winning season after 20 straight campaigns below .500. If so, they’ll directly thank Jason Grilli, the pride of Baldwinsville, who has turned into one of MLB’s best closers after a lot of starts and stops in a journeyman career.
Unlike Grilli, Patrick Corbin isn’t waiting to be a star. Not yet 24, Corbin was, six seasons ago, toiling for Cicero-North Syracuse, and many had high expectations for him.
Few, though, could have imagined that Corbin would get to the majors at 22 for Arizona, and that a year later the left-hander would emerge as the ace of the first-place Diamondbacks, starting 8-0 and making a case for getting a start next month at the All-Star Game in Queens.
Perhaps Corbin got a hold of the same formula that has propelled fellow C-NS alum Breanna Stewart to greatness everywhere she has gone, from state and Federation Class AA basketball titles for the Northstars to multiple gold medals for Team USA in various international tournaments.
And that was before Stewart went to Connecticut, where as a true freshman she started big, slumped in the middle, and then roared through March and early April, leading the Huskies as the difference-maker to yet another NCAA title and ending up as Most Outstanding Player. Is it too much to expect Stewart to win three more titles? She’s that good.
And so is Kara Cannizzaro, though unlike Stewart, the Cazenovia High School grad needed to wait until her senior year at Chapel Hill to deliver a long-awaited national championship to North Carolina.
A season with 61 goals, 22 assists and 42 forced turnovers was nice, but Cannizzaro saved her best stuff for Final Four weekend in Philadelphia, getting four straight goals in the semifinal to put away Northwestern, and then adding four goals and two assists in an epic title game that went five overtimes before the Tar Heels upended unbeaten Maryland.
For all that, Cannizzaro earned the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the nation’s best player. Liverpool’s Mikey Meagher, a terrific goalie at Florida, was also a finalist, as was LaFayette’s Lyle Thompson on the men’s side after his sophomore season at Albany where he picked up 62 assists and 108 points.
It was quite a weekend for the Cannizzaro family, with Sean trying to put Denver in the NCAA men’s lacrosse final and coming up just short, and Connor, who is ironically going to Maryland, leading Cazenovia to another sectional title back home.
Propelled by a deep pool of local talent, especially Skaneateles’ Kevin Rice, Syracuse rallied past Denver in that national semifinal, only to succumb to Duke and bad face-offs. But Le Moyne did hang on for the NCAA Division II championship, again with local players everywhere on the roster.
When SU’s men’s basketball team made its way to the Final Four in Atlanta two months ago, two players from Jamesville-DeWitt – Brandon Triche in a starring role, Dajuan Coleman patiently waiting his turn – were at the forefront.
Somehow, all of this success is contagious. Even the hockey players feel it, as the Syracuse Crunch swept two AHL playoff series and is inching toward a possible Calder Cup, the first in the team’s two-decade existence. Apparently it’s working out with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Put it all together, and it’s immensely satisfying. When following the high school sports scene, you know that only a small percentage of these athletes will become college standouts, and only a handful, at best, will go even further.
So when they do make it big, regardless of what town you are from and what team you root for, there’s a reason to be proud, to know that an area not highly regarded for producing top athletes can do so on a regular basis, in many different sports.
If you get the chance, pay close attention to those state championships this week. If recent results are any indicator, the young men and women vying for scholastic glory right now have a real chance to do much more in the months and years ahead.
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