by Michael Leonard
Stow -- For the Hudson baseball team, the division opener was all about keeping a strong start to the season going.
For Stow-Munroe Falls, it was about finally getting a chance to play.
After rain and soggy fields forced them 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 Stow's 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 overall and 1-0 in the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division, while Stow dropped to 0-2 overall and 0-1 in the Valley Division.
Explorers head 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. [April 9] was the first step for that. We did a good job all the way around."
The Explorers 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 eventually scored on a 6-4-3 double play.
Stow answered in the bottom of the first. After Brian Groves drew a leadoff walk, he scored on a run-scoring double by first baseman Alex Damschroder to make it 1-1.
The difference in the game was the top of the third.
Wright led off with a single, went to second on a ground out and came home on a run-scoring single from Cahill.
Nanak Saran then hit a double to deep right to put runners on second and third. Designated hitter Ian Swan then smacked 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, 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," Bulldogs head coach Celik said. "We know he's going to battle us and throw strikes. We had too many bad swings. 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 off Stow reliever Ryan Pitts.
Saran led off the seventh with a double, went to third on a ground out and scored on a run-scoring single from second baseman Jake McKenzie.
Saran led the Explorers with two doubles and two runs scored.
Cahill pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to preserve the win for Hudson.
The two squads were set to play a rescheduled rematch at the Ballpark at Hudson April 10.
From there, The Explorers were scheduled to host Alliance Marlington April 11 and travel to All-Pro Freight Stadium to take on Avon April 12. Results of those games were not available at press time.
Hudson is set to play a Valley Division home-and-home series April 15 at Mayfield and April 16 at home against the Wildcats.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.