For the Hudson baseball team, the division opener was all about keeping a strong start to the season going.
For Stow-Munore Falls, it was about finally getting a chance to play.
After rain and soggy fields forced Stow inside for a week, the Bulldogs finally got outside April 9 to host the Explorers.
A steady of dose of Hudson-style baseball — and ace Kevin Zullo — ruined the Bulldogs home opener.
Hudson scored a 6-1 win over the Bulldogs, as Zullo pitched six strong innings to improve to 2-0.
Hudson improved to 4-0, 1-0 in the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division, while Stow dropped to 0-2, 0-1 in Valley Division.
While annoyed that his team was only playing its second game of the season, Stow coach Bryan Celik said the Bulldogs couldn’t use that as an excuse.
“It’s a rough start,” Celik said. “It’s a spring sport. We all know what we are in for.”
Meanwhile, Hudson coach Buddy Dice said it was good to see his team following its well-established formula for success.
“Nothing is changing,” Dice said. “Hopefully at the end of the season, Hudson will be back on top of the division again. Today was the first step for that. We did a good job all the way around”
Hudson opened the scoring in the top of the first inning. After Braden Wright was hit by a pitch, an error and a bunt single by Joey Cahill loaded the bases.
Wright scored when Nanak Saran hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
Stow would answer in the bottom of the first. After Brian Groves drew a lead-off walk, he scored on an RBI double by first baseman Alex Damschroeder to make it 1-1.
The difference in the game was the top of the third inning
Wright led off with a single, went to second on a ground out and came home on an RBI single from Cahill.
Saran then hit a double to deep right to put runners on second and third. Designated hitter Ian Swan then shot a two-run single through the right side of the infield.
After a fielder’s choice, an error and a walk loaded the bases, shortstop Jake Stuursma hit a sacrifice fly to right to make it 5-1.
“I think the third inning got away from Stow a little bit because we were able to run and execute,” Dice said, “I definitely like my odds giving Kevin Zullo a 5-1 lead.”
After the first inning, Zullo was in command. He went six innings, giving up only three hits, three walks and one hit batsman, while striking out four.
“Kevin’s a great pitcher,” Celik said. “We know he’s going to battle us and throw strikes. We had too many bad swings today. We swung at balls above our hands and that’s how you get pop ups.”
Stow starter Brett Hartman (0-1) took the loss, going five innings, giving up five runs on five hits with three walks and one strikeout.
Hudson got an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning of Stow reliever Ryan Pitts.
Saran led off the seventh with a double, went to third on a ground out and scored on an RBI single from second baseman Jake McKenzie.
Saran led the Explorers with two doubles and two runs scored.
Cahill pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning to preserve the win for Hudson.