HUDSON — Whether it was poor weather, illnesses, injuries or rigorous academic requirements, the Hudson baseball team has faced its share of challenges this spring.
In the end, though, the Explorers earned a trip to Division I district play and still have a chance to win a conference title.
On Tuesday, Hudson tried to continue to stand tall in the face of the storm.
The Explorers went toe-to-toe with their latest bout against adversity, but this time, the task proved to be too formidable.
Fifth-seeded Hudson’s postseason came to a heartbreaking end after losing to top-seeded Walsh Jesuit 6-1 in a district semifinal game at The Ballpark at Hudson.
With the loss, the Explorers, who host Twinsburg Friday at 7 p.m. for a chance at a piece of the Suburban League National Conference title, dropped to 15-11.
The Warriors, who are no strangers to district title games, improved to 22-3.
While the loss hurt, Hudson head coach Buddy Dice could certainly put his team’s season in perspective.
Throughout the spring, the Explorers faced distraction after distraction and didn’t blink despite a very slow start against their conference rivals.
"We faced so much adversity this year," Dice said. "We had illnesses, injuries, AP (Advancement Placement) testing, field trips to go along with the bad weather. It was difficult."
For much of the game, it looked like Hudson was going to defy the insurmountable odds once again, thanks to the stellar pitching of Parker Tallman.
The junior right-hander with the three-quarters to side-arm pitching style cruised in the first four innings. As a result, the Explorers had a 1-0 lead.
But the Warriors, who were the home team, got some two-out magic in the bottom of the fifth to score three unanswered runs. They added three more runs in the sixth to put it away.
"It was a game where both teams played extremely well," longtime Walsh head coach Chris Kaczmar said. "Credit goes to Hudson. Their starter threw a lot of strikes. There wasn’t a loser in this game."
Walsh’s starter showcased some pinpoint control, too.
Junior right-hander Yassir Kahook dealt with runners on base throughout the game, but he persevered to improve to 5-0 in 2018.
He scattered seven hits and finished with seven strikeouts and one walk. The Explorers had just two hits in 11 at-bats with runners on base.
"Yassir is a strike thrower and he has been a strike thrower throughout his career," Kaczmar said. "He threw a great game. He has tremendous mound presence."
Tallman, who dropped to 3-1 this spring, was stellar, too. But the game did a 180-degree turn in the fifth inning.
And most of the damage was done with two outs.
With a runner on first, Kaczmar inserted junior left-handed batter Riley Feltner into the game. Feltner, a Hudson resident, was unable to play in the field due to an injury.
Feltner still had the ability to swing and he delivered perhaps, the biggest hit of the game.
His double to the gap in left-center field drove in the tying run.
"I try to help the team in any way I can," Feltner said. "I wanted to get things rolling and I got a pitch to hit."
Tallman hit the next batter, junior center fielder Nick Vaccaro, and then gave up a run-scoring single to right by junior second baseman Evan Swan.
At that point, Tallman’s evening was finished after allowing just one hit in the first four innings.
"Parker pitched a fantastic game," Dice said.
Junior right-hander Bryce McClure, who has pitched throughout the season despite having open-heart surgery last August, replaced Tallman after Swan’s hit.
At that point, though, the momentum had completely switched sides.
Senior designated hitter Easton Kindall smacked McClure’s first pitch toward the fence in right. The ball landed under the fence, so Kindall wound up with a ground-rule double, but Vaccaro scored from second for an important insurance run to make it 3-1.
After the damage was done, Kahook, a Cuyahoga Falls resident, made sure the momentum didn’t switch again.
He sealed the deal with a bases-clearing double in the sixth and then dodged a one-out single in the seventh to finish the game.
"Coming into the game, I knew their (the Explorers’) crowd would be a factor," Kahook said. "I have all the confidence in the world in my defense."
Senior third baseman Matt Mileski had two hits and reached base in all three of his plate appearances for Hudson.
Junior Grant Gedeon drove in the Explorers’ lone run in the fourth with a single to left. Hudson had a runner caught stealing and two runners retired on force plays at third.
"We’re going to be aggressive," Dice said. "We’re going to take our chances."
Despite the outcome, Hudson’s season is not over. Besides the Twinsburg game, Dice was hoping his team can play a few more games.
If the Explorers defeat the Tigers, they could finish in a five-way tie with Stow-Munroe Falls, North Royalton, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Wadsworth for the conference title.
"We started out 0-4 and we still have a chance to play for a league championship," Dice said. "In the last 10 years, we’ve had our leaderboard that includes some offensive categories and some pitching categories. We have some people who are very close to those marks if they play enough games.
"We didn’t have an eight- or nine-win guy, but we had eight or nine guys throw a lot of innings. Without a doubt, we’ve had a good season."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.