Liverpool pitcher Jeff DiStefano (23) reaches back at the top of his wind-up before sending it to the plate during last Monday’s game against Syracuse, where the Warriors rallied to win its season opener 5-4 and then go on to sweep Syracuse in the next two games.
A season ago, they clashed for the Section III Class AA baseball championship, and Cicero-North Syracuse got the best of it, repeating its title from 2015 and keeping its main rival, Liverpool, from taking the crown.
Now they set out again in 2017, and for the second consecutive year all CNY Counties League games would take place in three-game series, one per week, weather permitting. The Northstars would face West Genesee, and the Warriors would take on Syracuse.
C-NS opened its series against the Wildcats in Camillus, and won 6-4 largely because it jumped out of the gate, battering WG starting pitcher Billy O’Brien for four runs in the top of the first inning.
Though O’Brien settled down, the Northstars tacked on a run in the fourth and another in the sixth off reliever Kevin Donohue. Brendan Reilly, with three hits, led the attack as Dylan Frawley earned a pair of RBIs. Luke Dziados, Connor Stanton and Dante Zapanta each drove in one run.
Right-hander Chris Cramer pitched six superb innings, surrendering five hits, but nothing more than a single. And though C-NS’s defense was uneven, it twice pulled off double plays to thwart Wildcat threats in the fourth and sixth innings, which proved important.
Jim Christian relieved Cramer in the bottom of the seventh, and gave up two runs, but bore down to strike out Liam Barry, the possible tying run, to end it.
They met again two days later at the Gillette Road complex after a 24-hour rain postponement. With Dziados on the mound, C-NS won again, 5-2, and once more got off to a quick start, this time with single runs in the first and second innings, plus three runs in the third from Stanton’s home run.
Dziados lasted five innings, only giving up two hits and earning seven strikeouts. Christian again struggled in relief as Josh Ludden saw a relief stint, too.
In the series finale on Thursday, C-NS looked for a sweep. Instead, it found itself on the wrong end of a combined no-hitter from Wildcats pitchers Marshall Winn and James Randall as it lost by a 2-0 margin.
Winn lasted five innings, giving up a pair of walks and a hit batsman, but nothing else as he amassed six strikeouts. Then Randall took over and, in the sixth and seventh innings to complete the gem, striking out two and only walking one.
For his part, C-NS pitcher Justin DelVecchio did a solid job, too, keeping the game 0-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when WG poked across a run. Another run followed in the sixth as DelVecchio surrendered seven hits overall, two each from Winn and Taylor Gould.
Quickly, the Northstars recovered, beating Rome Free Academy 4-3 Saturday afternoon at DeLutis Field. C-NS scored three times in the top of the fourth, only to have the Black Knights tie it in the bottom of the fifth.
To break that 3-3 tie, the Northstars needed to put across a run in the top of the seventh and then have relief pitcher Logan Persse work a scoreless frame in the bottom of the seventh. Cramer had started and went 5 1/3 innings, holding RFA to two hits. Reilly had two of his team’s four hits as Dziados and Stanton both drove in runs.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s series with Syracuse started with a tough 5-4 victory last Monday afternoon where the visitors scored three times in the third inning off Warriors starter Jeff DeStefano and added a run in the fourth.
Trailing 4-0, Liverpool erased that entire deficit with four runs in the bottom of the fourth and inched in front with a run two innings later. Owen Valentine, Jake Evans, Zach Scannell and Zach Pieklik drove in one run apiece during that comeback.
Just as important, though, was the relief pitching of Jonah Harder, who took over for DiStefano in the fifth and blanked Syracuse the rest of the way, allowing just one hit and inducing a series of fly balls and grounders.
Two days later, Liverpool again topped Syracuse 8-1 by getting three runs in the top of the second to overcome Syracuse’s lone run in the first inning. A run in the fifth inning followed as the Warriors clinched it with four runs in the top of the seventh.
Joel Cicciarelli tossed 5 2/3 innings, striking out 10 while holding Syracuse to four hits before Andre Leatherwood took over in relief. DeStefano doubled and drove in three runs, while Evans and Tom Bianchi each got two RBIs. Devan Mederios also drove in a run.
On Thursday, Liverpool, by a 4-1 margin, completed the sweep as it returned home and broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the bottom of the fourth. Two insurance runs followed in the bottom of the sixth as Scannell homered, with Evans and Gerard Mouton also driving in runs.
Nick Antonello’s complete-game effort was rewarded as he limited Syracuse to four hits and one walk, striking out seven. Syracuse pitcher Adam Douglas whiffed eight in his 5 2/3 innings of work before the Warriors got to him late.