by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- No one wants to bat against a star pitcher like Cory Martin.
Considering the other star pitcher the Stow-Munroe Falls baseball team has, Cuyahoga Falls may be the exception.
The top-seeded Bulldogs earned their second straight trip to the Northeast Ohio Division I District championship game with a 5-0 victory over the fourth-seeded Black Tigers May 15 at the Ballpark at Hudson.
Stow right-hander Alex Loftin stymied Falls throughout the game on his way to a complete-game three-hitter. He finished with 11 strikeouts, while issuing just three walks to improve to 6-0. Loftin threw 106 pitches.
With the win, the Bulldogs (22-5) earned a date with second-seeded Brecksville-Broadview Heights in a district championship game May 16. Brecksville advanced with a stunning come-from-behind 8-7 win over third-seeded Hudson in eight innings May 15.
Stow left-hander Cory Martin, who played first base May 15, was expected to get the ball against Brecksville. Falls (18-9), on the other hand, probably would have taken its chances with Martin rather than Loftin.
The two teams split their regular-season series. Stow got its win thanks to a no-hitter by Loftin.
Loftin's bid for another no-hitter against the Bulldogs' archrival was spoiled immediately as the Black Tigers' first two batters, center fielder Matt Rourke and first baseman Nate Rango, opened the game with singles.
Loftin got himself in further trouble when he walked Falls' No. 3 batter, Scott Burdette.
But the standout pitcher wound up getting out of the jam by getting a ground out and two strikeouts and never allowed a base runner past second the rest of the way.
"That just shows how Alex has grown as a pitcher," said Stow head coach Brian Banfield. "You have to give them [the Black Tigers'] credit. They came out swinging. Alex fought hard. It shows how much he has matured."
To make matters worse for the Black Tigers, the Bulldogs did all of their damage with two outs in the bottom of the first against left-hander Dave Lorentz (2-3).
After a walk to third baseman Matt Marino, Adam Heideman, who had three hits, including two doubles, and two runs scored, smacked a high chopper that took a huge hop over Burdette, Marino scored on the play and Heideman, who was running hard the whole way, stunned Falls by making it to second for a double.
Stow wasn't done.
The Bulldogs added two more runs in the third when Martin and designated hitter Jordan Greathouse, who reached base three times, delivered run-scoring singles.
Stow added an unearned run in the fourth and Heideman scored the final run on a passed ball in the fifth.
Lorentz was relieved in the third by right-hander Bryan Holland, who finished the game. The Bulldogs finished with 10 hits and one error.