by Michael Leonard
Hudson -- Heading into its final Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division series, the Hudson baseball team knew one win would secure the three-peat.
The Explorers left nothing to chance.
Taking on Cuyahoga Falls May 6 at Water Works Park, Hudson scored an 11-2 win to clinch the Valley Division.
Returning to The Ballpark at Hudson May 7, the Explorers defeated the Black Tigers 1-0.
Hudson's record improved to 19-3 as of press time.
The Explorers, who were ranked seventh in a recent Division I state poll, finished 9-1 in the Valley Division for the second straight year.
The end of the home-and-home series with Falls marked the end of an eight-game in six-days' stretch for the Explorers. Hudson went 6-2.
While noting he was looking to get ready to host Shaker Heights May 9 and travel to North Olmsted May 10 (results were not available at press time), Explorers head coach Buddy Dice said he was happy his team had clinched the three-peat and was looking to prepare for the postseason.
Hudson was given the No. 2 seed May 4 at the Division I Hudson district tournament draw.
The Explorers were given a bye in round one and will play the winner of Akron Ellet-Brunswick May 13 at 4:30 p.m. at home.
"Looking at the Ellet-Brunswick game, it's not going to be an easy game," Dice said. "Our guys have to be ready for every game in the playoffs."
Game one against Falls saw senior Kevin Zullo pitch another solid game to improve to 4-1 on the season.
Zullo went the distance, allowing two runs on three hits, while striking out eight Black Tigers.
Although it managed just eight hits in the win, Hudson's offense went through four different Falls' pitchers.
Braden Wright, Nanak Saran and Joey Cahill each had a double in the win. Zullo added a single and two runs, while catcher Same Evans had three runs batted in.
Things could have been even better for Hudson, but the Explorers left 12 men on base.
Hudson took an 11-0 lead in the sixth inning. the Black Tigers scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth to avoid the mercy rule, but that was all they got.
The May 7 home contest turned into a pitchers' duel between Saran and Falls' Ben Nelson.
Saran won the duel to improve to 6-0 on the season. He pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing only two hits with three strikeouts.
While Hudson did make several nice plays, the Explorers also committed three errors.
Nelson (0-5) took the loss, despite allowing one earned run on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts in a complete-game effort.
A single in the fourth inning by Ryan Horrigan and a single in the sixth inning by Adams accounted for all of Falls' hits.
The game's lone run came in the bottom of the first inning. Wright led off with a double, went to third on a ground out and came home on a sacrifice fly by Cahill.
Hudson had a great chance to add to the lead in the sixth inning. With one out, Cahill and Zullo hit back-to-back singles. Pinch hitter Andrew Karpinski then doubled to the gap in right center, but Cahill had to hold at second base because the ball looked like it might be caught.
Cahill tried to score, but was easily thrown out at the plate.
Falls' best chance to score came in the top of the seventh.
After two errors and a fielder's choice, the Black Tigers had runners on first and second with one out.
Riegler then his a ground ball to the shortstop, who threw the ball to second for an out. After a brief conference, the umpires ruled Gera had overslid the bag into Hudson second baseman Jared Hoffman.
By rule, Gera was called for offensive interference, meaning Riegler was called out and the game ended on a double play.
The Explorers are scheduled to visit NOC rival Medina May 13 at 4:30 p.m.