HUDSON — Nearly three full weeks into the season, both Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson baseball has just one win when they met Thursday at The Ballpark at Hudson.
For Falls, this was a continuation of recent seasons’ woes, but for Hudson, such struggles were an uncomfortable new feeling.
Falls looked to have the Explorers on the ropes early Thursday, but then Hudson rediscovered its offensive identity.
Hudson scored 12 unanswered runs to turn a close contest into a 16-6 rout in five innings via the mercy rule. The Explorers improved to 2-4 and 1-4 in the Suburban League National Conference, while Falls dropped to 1-7, 0-5 in the National Conference.
Given that both teams were reaching deep into their pitching depth, Hudson coach Buddy Dice said expecting a 1-0 contest was highly unlikely.
"I think both teams have played a lot of games this week," Dice said. "Basically, you had a lot of guys getting an opportunity to pitch, who wouldn’t normally."
Dice lauded junior reliever Marcel Ulrich, who picked up his first varsity win (1-0) by pitching 1-2/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit with a one strikeout.
Meanwhile, Falls coach Scott Koenig said his team’s play didn’t warrant victory, as the Black Tigers committed six errors in the loss and gave up nine free passes (six walks, two hit batsman).
"They’ve got to make the plays when we need them," Koenig said. "We could have been out of a couple innings if we make plays. Our pitchers have got to be able to hold a lead when we get it for them. We were up until the third inning and then things turned."
Koenig said he was hoping for more from starting pitcher Alex Valente (0-1), who lasted just two full innings, giving up eight runs (three earned) on eight hits with three walks.
Hudson opened the scoring in the first inning, when two walks and a Falls error allowed Explorer right fielder Matt Friend to hit a two-run single.
Falls replied with five runs in the top of the second. First baseman Dakota Page led off with a single, followed by a walk and hit batter. Center fielder Michael Hoedt then smashed a three-run triple to the fence in center field to make it 3-2.
After an error allowed Dallas Brown-Yates on, Alex Abernathy hit an RBI single. A throwing error allowed Brown-Yates to score from second base and make it 5-2.
Hudson hurt its cause with four errors in the contest, but Dice noted his team’s defense actually improved from earlier in the week.
"They still made plays when they needed too," Dice said.
Hudson got two runs back in the bottom of the second via an RBI single from right fielder Nolan O’Connell and an RBI double from catcher Grant Gedeon.
Falls played a little small ball of its own in the top of the third inning. Logan Fordyce was hit by a pitch and moved over on a sacrifice bunt from Page. Fordyce would then score on a throwing error to make it 6-4 in the middle of the third.
That’s when the Explorers started playing "Buddy ball" again.
Five straight singles — three of which were bunts — allowed Hudson to tie the game at 6-6, as second baseman Zach Palmer and shortstop Blake Farley each had RBIs.
The big blow in the bottom of the third, however, came on a Falls error. A dropped ball in center field with two outs allowed three Explorers to score and make it 9-6 after three innings.
Hoedt’s at bat in the top of the fourth inning was symbolic of Falls’ afternoon. Hoedt smashed his second triple of the day to right field, but while trying to come home, Hoedt hesitated and was caught in a rundown before being tagged out.
"We also stopped hitting after the third inning," Koenig said.
Hudson then got five runs in the fourth inning off just one hit. Two straight Falls errors allowed three runs to score, followed by a sacrifice fly from O’Donnell. Farley would score on a wild pitch to make it 14-6 after four innings.
Needing two runs to invoke the mercy rule, Hudson got them in the bottom of the fifth. After a walk and an error, Palmer hit his second RBI single of the day to make it 15-6.
After Farley walked, senior Steve Bianconi hit an RBI single to score to the decisive run.