Scott Koenig knows Nordonia baseball. The current Cuyahoga Falls head coach was in charge of the Knights earlier this decade.
Things have changed at Nordonia since Koenig’s tenure.
"They were bombers back in those days," Koenig said.
This year’s Knights — and this year’s Black Tigers — have had problems finding their offense this spring. Recently, Nordonia has shown signs of life, while Koenig is still looking for the right formula for Falls.
On Thursday, Nordonia scored five runs in the first inning and the rode solid pitching to a 6-1 win over the Black Tigers in Macedonia.
Also last week, Falls was able to go 1-1 in the Cuyahoga Falls City Baseball Championship. After losing 14-0 in five innings to Walsh Jesuit last Friday at Canal Park, Falls was able to score a 7-4 win over Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy last Saturday at Water Works Park.
Falls then hosted Hudson Monday, but lost 7-0 to the Explorers. Rain then returned to the area and postponed Falls’ home-and-home series with rival Stow-Munroe Falls Tuesday and Wednesday.
Falls’ record stands at 2-10, 0-8 in the Suburban League National Conference, while Nordonia improved to 6-10, 2-7 in the National Conference.
Nordonia coach Drew Hoisington said his team is starting to put things together, having gone 5-2 in their last seven games.
"The past two games, we’ve started to swing the bat a whole lot better," Hoisington said. "The guys are putting what we’ve worked on in the batting cages into the games."
By contrast, Falls still is struggling, as Koenig noted one big inning by the opponent was once again his team’s downfall.
"We come out in the first and give them a bunch of runs and we can’t come back," Koenig said. "I’m trying to find the right nine guys to play seven innings of smart baseball. I haven’t found those nine guys yet."
Koenig shook things up Thursday by starting six sophomores, including pitcher Jake Stiffler, but the move backfired early.
Stiffler (0-2) retired only one batter before being relieved, as he was tagged for five runs (thee earned) off two hits, a walk and a hit batsman.
In the bottom of the first inning, Nordonia catcher Mike Hamrick led off with a double, center fielder Brendan O’Donnell was hit by a pitch and both would score on a two-run single by first baseman Mason Mimms.
After an error and a walk to load the bases, Koenig replaced Stiffler with sophomore Alex Valente. Valente nearly got out of the jam, but a three-run, two-out double from Nordonia right fielder Nick kovacs made it 5-0 Knights.
Valente, however, would settle down and keep the Black Tigers in the game. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with five strikeouts.
"Alex Valente came in and pitched great for us," Koenig said. "We’ve been waiting for him to be healthy all season. He’s had arm issues. He’s back to what he was showing last year as a freshman."
Given solid run support for the first time this season, Nordonia starting pitcher Dylan Hiles (3-0) took advantage. He pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits with five strikeouts.
"Dylan does something that you have to do to be successful at the high school level: He pounds the strike zone," Hoisington said. "Dylan throws about 75 percent strikes and makes you beat him."
Nordonia also got a scoreless inning of relief from Vince Varner, while Ton Mellone gave up one unearned run in the seventh inning.
The Knights added a run in the bottom of the fifth when Mimms singled and later scored on an RBI groundout from Kovacs.
Falls broke up the shutout in the seventh inning when Landon Nagel reached on an error, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI groundout by Valente.
Due to the rainouts, Falls was set to travel to Stow Friday for a doubleheader with the first game starting at 3 p.m. Falls was then set to host Kent Roosevelt Saturday at 9 a.m.
Falls opens this week with a trip to Sprenger Stadium in Avon to take on Lakewood St. Edward at 5 p.m. The Black Tigers then travel to North Royalton Tuesday, host North Royalton Wednesday and then travel to Thursday. All three games will open at 4:30 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC