Home-field advantage is a concept that doesn’t always pan out, but in the case of the 2018 regular-season softball battles between Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool, it was essential.
Each of the three times they’ve met this spring, the home team won, and the Northstars had the extra home game, which it took advantage of last Monday afternoon at the Gillette Road Complex, defeating the Warriors 5-3.
The first two games saw C-NS use both of its pitchers, Ariana Corasaniti and Lindsey Richards. Here, though, Corasaniti would work all seven innings to put Liverpool away.
Again, Jenna Wike got the nod for the Warriors, and she managed to keep the Northstars’ Brandi Feeney hitless in three trips to the plate, a stark contrast to the two home runs Feeney smashed on May 2.
But as it turned out, C-NS didn’t need Feeney’s production, relying instead on flawless defense and a strong response to the Warriors’ lone outburst in the third inning.
Brooke Nicolaos’ RBI single in the second had the Northstars up 1-0, but in the top of the third, with two on and two out, Gianna LaValle and Delanie Alberici pulled off a double steal. That paid off seconds later when Ashley Teixeira doubled them home, and Gina Meyers followed with an RBI triple.
That 3-1 Warriors lead didn’t last. The first four C-NS batters in the bottom of the third reached base, capped by Julianna Vassallo’s game-tying two-run single. Then, with the bases loaded again, an error on Jenna Imbesi’s grounder allowed two more runs to race home.
That was all Corasaniti needed. Perhaps remembering that Liverpool had erased a two-run deficit the last time they met, the Northstars’ junior right-hander kept the Warriors off the board, getting a key double play in the sixth and then retiring Alberici, Wike and Teixeira in order in the seventh.
C-NS couldn’t relax too much, though, because the same West Genesee team that beat them in extra innings on May 8 would visit Gillette last Wednesday night, but helped by a pair of big rallies, the Northstars beat the Wildcats 9-2 this time around.
The score was still 0-0 when, in the bottom of the second innings, C-NS struck for four runs off WG pitcher Kayla Hoovler. Deanna Shackleton relieved Hoovler and settled things down for the next two frames.
Having closed the gap to 4-2 with, among other things, Katie Drogo’s solo home run, the Wildcats saw its chances dashed when the Northstars erupted again in the fifth, scoring five times.
Brandi Feeney hit a home run as she and Nicolaos drove in two runs apiece, with Giana Wameling adding a double and three RBIs. Vassallo and Ally Ciafratta had one RBI apiece as Corasaniti pitched two innings in relief of Lindsay Richards.
Liverpool, meanwhile, rebounded by handling Fayetteville-Manlius 8-1 on Senior Day, the game breaking open when the Warriors, up 1-0, struck for five runs in the bottom of the fourth, adding two runs an inning later.
Wike doubled twice and singled in her last regular-season home appearance. Olivia Hayden’s pair of hits led to three RBIs as Alicia Nash had two hits, two runs scored and two RBIs. Meyers also scored twice as Teixeira and Sophia Harris also drove in runs.
C-NS ventured to Baldwinsville Thursday and prevailed 8-2 over the Bees, scoring twice in the fourth and fifth innings to take charge, but still needing a four-run seventh inning to get away as Wameling and Ally Thompson had two hits apiece and each scored twice.
On Friday, Liverpool had its own battle with West Genesee, whom it had beaten twice in close contests earlier this season, but now disposed of in an impressive 9-0 road victory.
As Wike worked on a shutout, she also launched a five-run third inning with a two-run single, with Meyers’ single also netting a pair of runs. A four-run sixth inning followed as Olivia Hayden’s two-run single keyed the rally.
And as it turned out, it was Liverpool who gained the top seed for the Section III Class AA playoffs, with C-NS the no. 2 seed. Each side would need to win twice to set up another title game between them May 28 at Carrier Park.