Hudson baseball will rely on newcomers in 2021 season

Ashley Bastock
Kent Weeklies
Hudson's Wyatt Prado (15) attempts to field a ball at second base in a scrimmage against Chagrin Falls earlier this month.

Following the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hudson baseball coach Buddy Dice said that as soon as they were able to begin offseason workouts again, it was commonplace for him to show up to his team’s open gyms with a parking lot full of cars waiting for him ahead of 6:30 a.m. morning workouts.

“From what I've seen, our kids have been pretty resilient,” Dice, who is entering his ninth year at the helm of the program, said. “I think Hudson has a lot of good kids and a lot of hard-working kids in all sports. And I'm sure everyone else in our league, in our region, in the state, even in the country that had that taken away from them last year are probably approaching things a little differently this year.

“It just goes to show you that you can't take anything for granted. I know that our guys specifically, there's definitely been some hurdles to get over, things they may have taken for granted, things they don't know, but they're working hard and I'm just pleased with where they're going and how they're getting there.”

Hudson's Jack Florig pitches in relief in a scrimmage against Chagrin Falls earlier this month

Hudson will open the season at 4:30 p.m. Monday at home against Massillon Perry. The Explorers’ conference slate begins on April 6 against Wadsworth.

Overall, the Explorers are a young team due to the cancellation of last season. They do still return outfielder Drew Lightner, who brings some versatility in that he can also pitch, play third base, and catch.

Lightner also is a standout running back on the football team and could potentially play at the collegiate level.

“He has that experience in a different capacity,” Dice said. “It's nice to lean on him because he's been in the dugout. He kind of understands what it takes to have success at the varsity level.

"He was on a team that won 23 games a few years ago that played in the district final. He's the only one that has that experience, and he's a competitor, so I think kids kind of look to him at times for some advice and maybe lean on him a little bit.”

Johnny MacKay pitches in relief  in a scrimmage against Chagrin Falls earlier this month.

On Hudson’s 22-man roster, Dice says there are four sophomores who haven’t even had a chance to play high school baseball yet, let alone gain varsity experience. Nine of the Explorers’ 10 seniors have never been on a varsity lineup card, and of eight juniors, a few played JV in 2019 and that is their only experience.

“The coaching staff, we have approached things differently,” Dice said. “You can't assume anything. During our scrimmages we have realized some of that. Hats off to the players because they are like sponges. They want to know things, they want to know why things are happening, where we may have taken that for granted in the past with having upperclassmen to kind of share some of those things.

"But there's been a huge learning curve now I would say"

While there is inexperience overall, Dice said several seniors already have plans to play at the next level.

Right-handed pitcher Aiden Bangos is currently uncommitted. but has been in contact with several schools to play collegiate baseball.

Left-handed pitcher J.T. Fabian will travel to Arizona to pitch for Paradise Valley College.

Another lefty, Jack Florig, will play for Adrian College (Mich.).

Captain outfielder Connor Rubin is committed to Emerson, while captain first baseman Corey Strazek is headed to Ohio Wesleyan.

And what the Explorers lack in experience, they make up for with “great balance,” according to Dice.

“I think we will compete with everyone on our schedule, and that includes the Suburban League National Division, and non-conference games against some of the best in the state."