Jun 09, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All the Cicero-North Syracuse softball team wanted to do was win one more game than it did each of the last three seasons – to “Finish It”, as they so succinctly put it.
And the Northstars did finish the task on Saturday, winning the state Class AA championship for the first time since it prevailed on its home diamond in 2006.
At the Adirondack Sports Complex in Queensbury, C-NS turned back Brockport 4-0 in Saturday’s state semifinal. Hours later, with Sydney O’Hara showing why Syracuse University coveted her talents in the pitcher’s circle and at the plate, C-NS dismissed East Meadow 5-0 in the championship game.
In 2010, 2011 and 2012, C-NS had gone to the state final four and handled the semifinal part of the equation, only to get tripped up at the last hurdle, with two of those title-game defeats taking place at Queensbury, to which it returned again for another championship Saturday.
For the Northstars, especially the senior quartet of O’Hara, Lindsey Silfer, Amy Van Hoven and Kelly Corbin that had gone through those three state finals defeats, there was only one proper way for their stellar high school careers to conclude, and set out to earn that proper ending.
The state semifinal was first, and Brockport, the Section V champions, proved a stubborn foe. Through three innings, it remained 0-0 as Blue Devils pitcher Julia DiMartino matched O’Hara, adding to the tension.
Then Silfer led off the top of the fourth against DiMartino and crushed her fastball well over the center-field fence, a solo home run that pushed C-NS in front 1-0.
Far from done with her heroics, Silfer, from behind the plate, threw out DiMartino trying to steal second base in the bottom of the fourth. Then, with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, Silfer cleared them with a double that scored three runs.
Given that four-run cushion, O’Hara, named the Gatorade New York State Player of the Year earlier in the week, finished off her latest post-season gem as she struck out 12 Brockport batters.
This led to the game C-NS had waited four long and frustrating seasons to play. East Meadow, the Section VIII champions from Nassau County, Long Island, had rolled past Union-Endicott 8-0 in the other state semifinal, but against the Northstars it proved a different story.
O’Hara made sure of it. Having struck out the Jets in the top of the first, she came up to bat in the bottom of the first after Van Hoven and Lauren Floyd reached base against East Meadow pitcher Kerri Shapiro.
Having struck out three times at the plate against Brockport, O’Hara, swinging from the left side, timed Shapiro’s fastball and sent it the opposite way, clearing the left-field fence. Just like that, C-NS had a 3-0 advantage, the big hit that had eluded them in those previous three state finals defeats.
Though the Jets did get runners on base in the second and third innings, O’Hara didn’t flinch, instead continuing to amass the strikeouts – 11 through five innings – and keeping East Meadow off the board.
Meanwhile, the Northstars made it 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth, again through the seniors, as Van Hoven reached base and raced home on Silfer’s single, her fifth RBI of the state final four.
An inning later, in the sixth, O’Hara – knowing that this was, likely, the last time she would step to the plate in a C-NS uniform – offered a theatrical send-off when she crushed her second home run of the game.
All that was left was to get three more outs, and O’Hara breezed past them, striking out Taylor Conti to clinch a state title a long time in the making.