by Michael Leonard
Hudson -- The Hudson and Twinsburg baseball teams have long done things their way on offense.
The Explorers' "Buddy ball" -- named after head coach Buddy Dice -- bases itself on Ty Cobb's philosophy: Bunt, run and apply pressure on the defense.
Meanwhile, Tigers head coach Don Jones prefers a more Mike Hargrove-like approach: Grip it and rip it with everybody hitting from No. 1 to No. 9 in the lineup.
Both offenses have been putting up tons of runs this spring.
So, of course, when the two teams team met this week, a pair of pitchers' duels broke out.
Hudson won a marathon 12-inning affair April 22 at The Ballpark at Hudson. The Explorers scored the tying run in the bottom of the seventh and eventually earned a 2-1 win.
On April 23 at Dodge Field, it was just as close, but Hudson scored a 2-0 win.
The Explorers improved to 11-1 overall and 4-1 in the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division as of press time.
Dice noted game one was another chapter in the growing rivalry between the two teams.
"Coach Jones always has his guys ready to play," Dice said. "We didn't hit the ball as well as we should, but [senior starter Kevin] Zullo kept us in the game."
"They all hurt when you lose," said Jones of game one. "We just have to regroup."
In game one, Zullo had another excellent start, but he was matched pitch for pitch by Twinsburg starter Austin Evans, who was making only his second varsity start.
Evans put up six scoreless innings, allowing only three Hudson hits.
"Austin threw a week ago and we liked what we saw," Jones said. "His pitch count was up over 70. He deserved a better fate, but we turned it over to two-year varsity starter [Mitch Eglar]. If I had to do it again, I would have left him in."
Evans left the game with the lead as the Tigers scored their only run in the second inning.
A one-out single from shortstop Zack Gronoski was followed by a two-out single from Evans to put men at the corners.
Second baseman Chuck Kuhn then came through with a run-scoring single to make it 1-0, though Evans was thrown out at third to end the inning.
Twinsburg finished with three-inning ending double plays in the game and the score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the seventh.
With Eglar coming in to pitch for the Tigers, the Explorers' Ian Swan led with a single. Brett Kemper came on to pinch run.
Kemper went to second on a sacrifice bunt. After Travis Wood walked, Kemper stole third and then came home when the pickoff throw went into left field.
Eglar was able to keep the game tied at 1-1 by striking out Zullo and getting Jake McKenzie to ground out, sending it to extra innings.
"That's a microcosm of our season," Jones said. "We make the great play, but we can't make the simple play. That's the reason why we've got four losses."
"We ran the bases very aggressively," Dice said. "Hats off to Twinsburg for making the plays they did."
After the seventh inning, Eglar settled in, even though he would eventually take the loss.
After Zullo pitched the eighth, Swan (3-0) pitched four scoreless innings of relief to get the win.
Another defensive miscue led to the end of the game for Twinsburg.
Hudson shortstop Jake Stuursma struck out to start the bottom of the 12th. However, the third strike was dropped and Stuursma made it all the way to second base when the throw went off the first baseman's glove.
Braden Wright then laid down a perfect bunt single to put runners at the corners with no outs.
Jones chose to intentionally walk Andrew Karpinski to set up the force play at home.
However, pinch hitter Matt Wallace drew a walk-off walk, bringing Stuursma home with the winning run.
On April 22 at Twinsburg, it was time for the Explorers' Nanak Saran and the Tigers' Andrew Czech to dominate. Each starting pitcher threw a complete game.
Saran was just a bit better as he pitched a four-hit shutout to improve to 4-0 on the year.
Czech fell to 1-3 despite a very good outing as he allowed only two runs (one earned) on five Hudson hits.
Two of Hudson's hits came in the fourth inning to give Hudson the lead. Swan led off with a single and would come home on a run-scoring single from Jared Hoffman.
Another Tiger miscue helped the Explorers get an insurance run in the fifth as Stuursma reached on a three-base error. Wright hit a sacrifice fly to drive him in.
Hudson was set to travel to Boardman April 25 before returning home to play Nordonia April 26. Results of those games were not available at press time.
The Explorers are scheduled to host Valley Division rival Solon April 29 before heading to Solon April 30. Both games are set to begin at 4:30 p.m.