COLONIE The Cicero-North Syracuse softball team is heading back to the state tournament in Queensbury.
The Northstars earned their third consecutive trip by defeating Shenendehowa 7-2 in Tuesday's Class AA regional final at Veeder Park.
Junior pitcher Sydney O'Hara scattered just three hits while striking out nine. She also got the Northstars offense going when she hit a two-run home run over the centerfield fence in the top of the third inning.
"I relied mostly on my curveball," said the left-handed hurler, who also mixed it up with change-ups and riseball. "I was kind of in a slump, so that hit was good for me. The pitch was on the outside corner and I drove it hard."
O'Hara struck out two Shen batters in the fourth and started the fifth with another. She had two strikes on Briana Swota before she threw a pitch right down the middle of the plate. Swota didn't miss the opportunity and drilled the ball for a solo home run that cut the C-NS lead to 2-1.
Taylor Fitzgerald followed Swota's home run with a bloop single, but C-NS turned a double-play to end the inning.
The Northstars struck for five runs in the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach. Amy VonHoven's RBI single started the rally, and Lindsey Silfer added a two-run single to make the score 5-1. Morgan Phillips and Cassy Franklin each drove in a run to increase C-NS's lead to 7-1.
"They got the hits when they needed them," said Shen pitcher Erika Daigle. "I just didn't get the pitches where I wanted them today."
Fitzgerald added a two-out RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning for Shen, but O'Hara got Aly Kramer to ground out and end the game.
"I have all the respect for Cicero-North Syracuse. She (O'Hara) is the best pitcher we've seen," said Shen coach Dan D'Amoise. "We rallied, but the barn door shut quickly."
C-NS coach Kerry Bennett will lead his team into the tournament, where they finished as runners-up the last two years.
"We've been pretty good all year, but this is where it counts" said the 30-year veteran coach. "We are 21-3. With the three losses all by one run and two of those games were in extra innings, we just got to continue to play the way we've been playing."