High School Baseball: Rivalry still matters for Stow and Hudson

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls shortstop Connor Dunlap tags out Hudson's Johnny MacKay during the the Bulldogs' 11-2 win Wednesday at the Ballpark at Hudson.

HUDSON — Stow-Munroe Falls vs. Hudson.

There is no DMZ or checkpoints on Seasons and Norton road between the two communities, but some Bulldogs and Explorers might think there should be.

It could be argued Stow-Hudson has become Summit County's hottest rivalry over the last decade.

Hudson multi-sport star Drew Lightner is sure of it.

"In every sport, it's just a battle," Lightner said. "The week before everyone is getting hyped up just because it's Stow week.

"Everyone is talking crap back and forth. You just have to beat them."

Lightner has been banging heads with the Bulldogs in football and baseball since his sophomore year.

Stow baseball captain Aidan Vober concurs this game carries extra weight.

"It's big for everybody," Vober said. "We always wanted to play better for our hometown fans, even when were here [at The Ballpark at Hudson], because we know they're going to be here. Today, we brought all three baseball teams."

One other point of motivation for Stow to beat their neighbors to the north: On the baseball diamond, Hudson has been the dominant squad the last few years.

Hudson first baseman Corey Strazek makes a sliding play during the Explorers' 11-2 home loss to Stow-Munroe Falls Wednesday.

"This is an extremely important game," said Stow coach Aaron DeBord. "Hudson's had our number the last few years. The guys were ready to play today."

Hudson coach Buddy Dice said he's used to having a target on his back.

"It's no doubt that everybody wants to beat Hudson," Dice said. "We've been able to beat [Stow] the last few times and they gave their all against us."

After a soggy week, the synthetic field at The Ballpark at Hudson allowed the Explorers to host one of the few baseball games in Summit County Wednesday.

It was clear from the start the Bulldogs were chomping at the bit.

Stow put up five runs in the first inning and staying command throughout, as the Bulldogs scored an 11-2 victory to notch their first win in years at The Ballpark at Hudson.

DeBord noted his team was sharp from the outset.

"We came out and played our game today," DeBord said. "When you're able to put up five runs in the first inning, it gives you a good chance to win."

"I don't know if it was them jumping on us or us just shooting ourselves in the foot," Dice said. "Four straight balls to start off the game is a bad way to open it."

Hudson starter Aidan Bangos got off to a rough start, but Dice noted the worst part came during a scary moment in the top of the first.

Stow shortstop Brandon Beck took a pitch to the face from Bangos and stayed down. Beck was able to leave the field under his own power, but was cut badly by the pitch.

"I think once that happened and he saw the blood, that really affected [Bangos]," Dice said.

Stow got their runs in the first on a fielder's choice as Vober beat the throw home, a bases-loaded walk by Nick Sackett, a two-run single from Zac Fuller and wild pitch to score Sackett.

Benefiting from all that run support was Stow starter Connor McCartney (4-1). McCartney pitched a complete game, giving up two earned runs on six hits, while striking out five.

"As soon as those five runs came in, all the tension went away," McCartney said. "I trusted that my team was going to keep scoring for me and they did."

Stow-Munroe Falls pitcher Connor McCartney fires a ball home during the Bulldogs' 11-2 win at Hudson Wednesday. McCartney pitched a complete game in the win.

While Dice wondered if the cold, wet weather affected his pitching staff, McCartney noted he preferred the conditions.

"I don't like throwing with a dry leather ball as much, so the rain actually helped me out," McCartney said.

 "Connor has been our best arm all season," DeBord said. "He pounded the strike zone today. The only game he lost this year was a 1-0 loss where he threw a complete game and gave up two hits. Connor's developed into our ace."

After stabilizing a bit after the first inning, Stow chased Bangos from the game in the top of the fourth inning. An RBI double from Vober proved to be the last straw, as Bangos lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up eight earned runs on five hits.

With Hudson bringing on sidearm specialist Charlie Draper, DeBord reached into his bag of tricks.

With runners on second and third, Stow third baseman Pat Ciccantelli put down a nice bunt, scoring Frank Miller from third easily. Hudson threw out Ciccantelli at first, but Vober was able to score all the way from second.

"That's the Dennis Dever special right there," DeBord said, speaking of his former mentor at Woodridge. "I told them we were going to try it. They looked at me funny, but it worked."

"He told me, 'You're scoring on this play,' " Vober said. "I just said, 'OK.' It felt great."

Down 8-0, Hudson broke up the shutout with an RBI single from Corey Strazek in the fourth.

Stow added three more runs in the top of the sixth. Ciccantelli had an RBI ground out, followed by an RBI single from Connor Dunlap. Catcher Riley Cesnak then scored Dunlap with a sacrifice fly.

Hudson was able to avoid getting mercy-ruled in the bottom of the sixth. Lightner doubled and then scored on an RBI single from catcher Sam Scharville, but the Explorers would get no closer.