Hudson baseball team reaches first regional final since 2000

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by Frank Aceto | Associate Sports Editor

Canton -- Nanak Saran was caught red-handed and had nowhere to go.

So what was he thinking during this ordeal?

"Oh shoot," the senior first baseman said.

That is likely the printable version.

Ironically, Saran's huge mistake was the best thing that happened to the Hudson baseball team.

And that's why the Explorers reached a regional title game for the first time since 2000.

Hudson earned a thrilling 4-1 victory over Aurora in eight innings in a Division I regional semifinal game May 29 at Thurman Munson Stadium.

With the win, Hudson (26-4) earned a date with Massillon Jackson in a regional title game.

The Polar Bears earned a 3-2 win in the other regional semifinal contest May 29 in Canton.

The title game was scheduled for May 30 at Munson Stadium. Results were not available at press time.

So what happened?

Let's just say that the Explorers' aggressive base running caused some major chaos.

Trailing 1-0 in the top of the seventh, Hudson got the tying run on base when Saran led off the inning with a single to left field.

Saran moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior pinch hitter Jacob McKenzie, but Aurora pitcher AJ Kimes got a crucial second out when he retired junior center fielder Dean Miller on a popup to second.

And then Kimes and the rest of the Greenmen were on their way to the win when Saran was caught in no-man's land between second and third.

Kimes immediately spotted the anxious Saran and quickly threw towards second.

But there was one major problem with that scenario.

The ball went into center field.

Saran appeared to run through Explorers' head coach Buddy Dice's stop sign at third base and wound up scoring the tying run. He dove head first toward the plate just underneath the tag of freshman catcher Alan Arslanian.

"We got back to Hudson baseball," Saran said. "We stay in it and make the other team make the play. Thankfully, they threw it away. Coach held me up, kind of, and I went right by it and got the run. It was huge.

"The center fielder made one heck of a throw, but [the catcher] was a little bit up the line so I slid to the outside part and I got my hand in just in the nick of the time."

Dice claimed he did not try to stop Saran at third after the game.

"It was a decoy," Dice said, with a smirk. "I wanted him to keep going."

The Explorers kept going.

They took the lead in the top of the eighth with three runs.

Junior shortstop Jake Stuursma reached base when he got hit by a pitch to start the inning against sophomore right-handed reliever Adam Long.

Senior left fielder Braden Wright and senior third baseman Dan Joseph drew back-to-back walks to load the bases and then senior right fielder Joey Cahill drove in the go-ahead run without taking the bat off his shoulders.

Cahill drew a bases-loaded walk from junior right-handed reliever Carter Semancik.

Senior right-handed pitcher Kevin Zullo followed with a run-scoring ground out to short and then McKenzie made it 4-1 with a bunt single.

"We had some quality at bats," Zullo said. "We played hard the whole game. We just thought we were due."

Zullo (7-1), a right-hander, avoided a two-out walk to finish the game. He struck out nine batters and allowed just three hits in eight innings of work.

"I never thought of taking Kevin out," Dice said. "If I did, I think he would have killed me. He's a phenomenal pitcher and a great competitor."

The lone run Zullo gave up was unearned.

That unearned run Zullo gave up looked like it was going to be the difference in the game.

In the bottom of the sixth, freshman right fielder Ben Stawicki reached on an infield error. After a sacrifice bunt moved Stawicki to second and a strikeout, junior shortstop Matt Carpenter drove in the Greenmen's only run with a single to left field.

Kimes allowed just three hits and walked four batters. Both teams had one error.

While the latest win might have been a bit on the bizarre end of things, the Explorers have been masterful at winning games just like this for the last three years.

"We have been there before," Dice said. "Even down to the last out with Nanak at second base. He could've and should've been out, but we still got a run to continue. This feels pretty good."

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