Right to the last out, the Bethlehem softball team battled, looking for one more victory in its historic season so it could reach this weekend's state Class AA final four in Queensbury.
But the Eagles could not quite catch up to Section III power Cicero-North Syracuse, taking a 4-1 defeat Tuesday afternoon at the Northstars' home complex at Gillette Road Middle School in Cicero.
We fully expected to come back, and we fought to the end, said head coach Karen Gentile.
Having already beaten the odds to win its first Section II
championship in 33 years, Bethlehem looked for the same magic against 22-0 CNS, a team in pursuit of its sixth state title after losing in the state final one year ago. Freshman pitcher Meagan Sullivan faced off against Northstars sophomore Sydney O'Hara.
Sullivan navigated through the first inning without trouble, but in the top of the second Sam Cirillo led off with a double, moved to second on a groundout and came home on Sarah Salamone's RBI single.
Down 1-0, the Eagles nearly tied it in the bottom of the second. Samantha Smaldone coaxed a leadoff walk and stood on second when, with two outs, Morgan Mazzone singled to left.
Jessie Fleck, running for Smaldone, tried to score on Mazzone's hit, but a relay throw found Cirilllo, the Northstars' catcher, who blocked the plate and tagged Fleck out. Gentile said not converting those early chances was costly to her team's chances.
Sure enough, CNS pounced in the third, getting two runners on base with one out. Cirillo grounded out, scoring Amy Van Hoven, and Morgan Phillips followed with an RBI double that made it 3-0.
As the deficit grew to 4-0 in the fourth, Bethlehem appeared to take another hit when, fielding a grounder at second, Jamie Cerrone got knocked over by Brittany Paul, who was called out due to interference.