Jun 03, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Somewhere in the month of May, the Cicero-North Syracuse baseball team found a higher gear. What had merely been a good squad turned into something that could, if things broke right, have a shot at greatness.
Well now look at the Northstars — the newly-crowned Section III Class AA champions, earned Tuesday at Alliance Bank Stadium when it beat Auburn 3-2 behind the strong left arm of Grant Nadeau and catcher Kevan Smith’s big bat.
Since last winning a sectional title in 2005, CNS had put together three fine regular seasons in 2006, ’07 and ’08, only to get knocked out before reaching the sectional finals. In all those cases, the Northstars may have peaked too soon.
That wasn’t the case with head coach Kevin Rockwell’s second sectional champion. Once the pitching duo of Grant Nadeau and T.J. Jaquay took hold, the Northstars began to roll, and both aces would win in the Class AA playoffs — Nadeau blanking Fayetteville-Manlius 3-0 in the quarterfinals, Jaquay beating two-time defending champion Utica Proctor 5-3 in the semifinals.
It was Nadeau’s turn in the final, and the senior would not have it easy against a potent Auburn lineup that had scored 20 runs in playoff wins over Watertown and top seed Liverpool. What’s more, the Maroons wanted redemption after losing last year’s AA final to Proctor.
Working quickly, Nadeau and his Auburn counterpart, Steve Komanecky, made it through two scoreless innings, the Northstars unable to capitalize on some early chances. But in the bottom of the third, CNS would strike.
John Howell led off with a walk, then moved to second base. Riley Moonan then brought Howell home with an RBI single, and Smith, already with a single to his credit, tripled to the wall in right field, 350-feet away, to plate Moonan and make it 2-0.
Nadeau had the lead — but could not hold it, as Auburn got a pair of unearned runs in the top of the fourth. Eddy Charles and Matt Wild both singled, and an error loaded the bases before Bob Gage walked home a run and Tim Smith’s grounder made it a 2-2 tie.
CNS needed an answer — and got it in the bottom of the fifth. Howell walked, then took off a third when a wild throw on Aaron Hildreth’s sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position.
With one out, and the bases full again, Komanecky faced Smith, whose fly ball was deep enough for Howell to bring home what proved to be the winning run. CNS had just five hits off Komanecky, two of them from Smith.
Meanwhile, Nadeau was busy working on his own four-hit gem. He struck out just one Auburn batter, but protected that slim one-run lead by blanking the Maroons in the sixth and seventh innings to clinch a sectional title.
Since CNS doesn’t play again until Monday’s regional final against the Section II (Albany area) champions, also at Alliance Bank Stadium, Nadeau could pitch again as the Northstars look to advance to the June 13 state final four at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton.