High school baseball: Cultures clash in the snow as Hudson edges Nordonia
HUDSON — The Nordonia and Hudson baseball teams are both experiencing an issue common to many teams, yet unique to the 2021 season.
Both teams had large and talented senior classes in 2020 that did not get to play.
The lack of a season left both the Knights and Explorers bereft of varsity experience. Thus, Knights coach Drew Hoisington said he expected it would take time for his team to find its footing and identity.
"We've said it from the outset of the season — the team that plays the first 10 games is not going to be same team who plays from 11 games on" Hoisington said. "They're going to keep fighting. We've got a lot of young talent on this team."
It's still early and the Knights' progress was slowed further when it endured a 10-day pause due to COVID-19.
However, Nordonia seemed to have developed an identity: The Knights have a tendency to fight back, no matter the score.
Even in two losses earlier this week to Wadsworth, Nordonia rallied from early deficits before falling to the Grizzlies.
"Like I told the guys after the game, you guys continue to fight and battle," Hoisington said. "They're learning that the Suburban League is a gauntlet."
Even with its graduation losses, Hudson's team identity remains intact: "Buddyball."
Explorers coach Buddy Dice is a disciple of the Ty Cobb philosophy of baseball, which features bunting, stealing bases at every opportunity and putting pressure on the defense.
Both styles were on display when the two teams met on the new FieldTurf diamond at The Ballpark at Hudson Thursday.
It was another back-and-forth affair for the Knights, who took the early lead, fell behind and rallied to tie the score before losing 9-7 to the Explorers.
Each coach expressed respect for their other team's style.
"They take advantage of every opportunity you give them," Hoisington said. "You can't give out free passes against Hudson. Unfortunately, that's been our Achilles' heel so far this year. They made more plays than we did today."
"I noticed they had been able to score a lot of runs, but not always benefit from it," Dice said. "They always have a solid team and they always play us tough. Also, it seems every time they play us, the weather is lousy."
That trend continued Thursday, as cold temperatures, rain and even a brief snow flurry beset the game early. Without the artificial surface the game likely would have been postponed.
At first, the two teams played through it, but it was clear the conditions affected Hudson starting pitcher Shane Fordyce, who had little control on his pitches, hitting two batters and throwing four wild pitches.
"That's why the umpires decided to pause the game," Dice said of the teams being sent to the dugouts after just two batters. "They decided the conditions weren't safe. Thanks to radar and all this modern equipment, we figured it would clear up after we waited it out."
Once play resumed, however, Fordyce didn't recover his form.
A wild pitch, an error, a double steal and an RBI single by Caden Gopalakrishna gave Nordonia a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Fordyce recorded just one out before being relieved by Charlie Draper, a sidearming right-hander who did a great job stopping the bleeding and kept the Knights off the board again until the fifth inning.
Hudson got one run back in the second, when a double steal allowed left fielder Drew Lightner to score.
Hudson then stormed into the lead with five runs in the third. Along with doubles by Wyatt Prado and Sam Scharville, an error, a two-run single by designated hitter Carter Buzzelli and a bases-loaded walk to Corey Strazek gave Hudson a 6-4 lead.
Hudson looked to be in control after an RBI single by Johnny MacKay made it 7-4 through four innings.
True to form, the Knights rallied.
Nordonia took advantage of some wildness from Draper, as two consecutive hit batsmen were followed by a wild pitch, allowing Nordonia Aidan Chilton to score.
Gopalakrishna then tied the score at 7-7 with a two-run single. Gopalakrishna led the Knights by going 2-of-4 with three RBI.
However, Hudson reliever Jack Florig (2-1) shut the door. He allowed just one hit and struck out four Knights over the final 2⅔ inning to pick up the win.
Hudson scored the winning runs in the sixth. With the bases loaded, an error on a ball hit by MacKay allowed two runs to score.