HUDSON — The season hasn’t reached the halfway point yet.
And the long, rigorous journey to a conference title is still in its infancy.
Such facts haven’t spoiled the Hudson baseball team’s raucous party, though. The Explorers are having the time of their lives.
How does 11-0 sound?
Host Hudson continued its undefeated season with a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Akron Archbishop Hoban Friday at The Ballpark at Hudson.
The Explorers used four pitchers, stole five bases and got some timely hitting to top the Knights, who fell to 3-7 in 2019.
Since the season is still young, it’s important to understand the long journey ahead. Hudson hasn’t accomplished anything yet.
Therefore, the Explorers would be wise to keep a level head and focus on the next game, right?
Pardon the Hudson players for not adhering to such instructions.
When the final out was recorded by left-handed closer Joe Whitman, they stormed onto the field in jubilation.
"We are absolutely enjoying it," Explorers head coach Buddy Dice said. "We put a lot of work in the off-season to get here. To not enjoy it would be foolish."
There was nothing "foolish" about Hudson’s performance.
As has been the case for much of the 21st century, the Explorers didn’t rely on the glamorous blast over the wall to shove Hoban aside. Hudson took care of business ... well, the Hudson way.
The Explorers used their aggressive base running to distract the opposing defense.
It worked beautifully.
Hudson took advantage of throwing errors on pickoff attempts to score runs in the second and fourth innings, respectively. The Explorers also scored another run on a balk.
When the Knights took their swings, Hudson made all of the plays in the field and turned a nifty 5-4-2 double play that viciously killed a threat in the fifth.
And the most marvelous part of it all was this: It seems like everyone is doing his part.
"I have faith in every single one of them," Dice said. "They all have something to offer. They’ve all been getting opportunities and they’ve all been making the best of it."
Left-hander Aiden Samuel replaced starter Ethan Samangy in the third and wound up pitching two innings to get the win. Samuel improved to 5-0 in 2019.
Parker Tallman, who emerged as the team’s ace at the end of last season, followed with two scoreless innings before Whitman retired the Hoban side in order to pick up his fourth save of the spring.
"This year, we are extremely fortunate with the arms that we have," Dice said. "We have a lot of speed, guys who can play the field. It’s all coming together nicely.
"I can’t compliment them enough for the work they put in the off-season starting back in September. They attended morning lifting, open gyms, open cages, open whatever.
"That’s why the roster is so large. They’re all on board with what we’re doing. You see the end results. It’s a lot of fun."
The Knights didn’t make it particularly easy for the surging Explorers.
Thanks to a two-out, two-run single by left fielder Luke Bauer in the top of the third, Hoban took a 2-1 lead.
However, Hudson came right back in the bottom half of the inning.
After Shawn Parnell retired the first two batters on strikeouts, right fielder Blake Hartline drew a walk and eventually scored the tying run on a double to the fence in left-center field by first baseman Nolan O’Connell.
The Explorers added two more runs in the fourth to take the lead for good.
Shortstop Blake Farley reached base via a walk, raced toward third after a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and then scored on a double by Zack Palmer, who finished with three hits.
Palmer then stole third and scored when Parnell was called for a balk.
The Knights had a chance to make some noise in the fifth.
Back-to-back doubles by shortstop Mack Timbrook and right fielder Dylan Feltovich made it a one-run game.
Center fielder Mason Tipton followed with a single, but Tallman escaped further damage when his defense got the first out on a fielder’s choice and then turned a back-breaking double play.
The double-play ball was hit to third baseman Marcell Ulrich, who quickly turned and fired to Zack Palmer at second for the second out. Palmer alertly noticed the runner from third racing toward the plate and threw home.
The ball went to catcher Grant Gedeon, who tagged the runner out to end the inning.
"I think their base runner hesitated," Dice said. "I don’t know what was happening. It was a little bit of a funky play, but Marcell threw a strike to second base. And then the runner broke late and Zack made a nice play throwing home where Grant Gedeon hung in there and tagged him out."
O’Connell finished with two hits and Farley scored two runs. Like it has done throughout the season, Hudson proved to be dangerous in all facets of the game.
The Explorers don’t let things happen. They insist on making things happen.
Thus far, no one has been able to stop them.
"I think there are many facets to the game," Dice said. "If you’re not well-versed in all of them, teams will exploit you."
As long as Hudson keeps winning, the fun times and massive celebrations will continue to be a regular occurrence.
And Dice won’t play the role of party pooper. Not yet, at least.
"I think everyone enjoys winning," Dice said. "You take one day at a time. We still have nine more league games. If we don’t come ready to play, we’re going to have our tails between our legs."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.