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MACEDONIA -- It was a pitcher's duel that had plenty of drama and excitement.
In the long run, though, the Hudson-Nordonia baseball game came down to a crucial call that did wonders for the home team.
The host Knights improved to 6-2 overall and 3-0 in the Suburban League National Conference after earning a 2-1 victory over the Explorers April 12 in Macedonia.
With a runner on third base and two outs, Hudson senior right-hander Johnny Merrill was called for a balk. As a result, that allowed the go-ahead run to score.
Nordonia senior designated hitter Chris Nolan, who led off the inning with a walk and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore left fielder Brendan O'Donnell and to third on a ground out, scored on the balk.
"He [the umpire] said he didn't come to a complete stop," Explorers head coach Buddy Dice said. "You don't make that call with a conference game on the line."
The crucial play was just enough for Knights' right-hander Daniel Heiser, who mixed an array of fastballs, curves, sliders and changeups from a variety of arm angles to thwart Hudson's offense.
Heiser had to work for it, though.
He threw 126 pitches and had the tying run at second and the go-ahead run on first when he issued two walks in the seventh.
But Heiser (2-0) got out of the jam with a strikeout and a ground out to second to end the game.
"We were going to take him [Heiser] out if they got to the top of the order," Nordonia head coach Drew Hoisington said. "When I came out to the mound, I knew he had two batters in him. I feel we have two horses in Daniel and [senior pitcher] Kyle Seither. Daniel has really become aggressive on the mound this year."
Heiser struck out eight batters and walked three. He allowed just two hits.
"We had many poor at bats and poor swings," Dice said.
The Explorers (5-3, 2-2) got both of their hits and their lone run in the top of the first. All of that damage took place after the first two batters failed to reach base.
Senior right fielder Bryce Kilfoyle, a left-handed batter, got things started with a single to left. Senior Seth Draper followed with a walk and senior shortstop Hayden Knox, another left-handed batter, gave Hudson a 1-0 lead with a single to right-center field.
The Knights tied the game in the bottom of the second.
Senior shortstop Trey Crockett smacked a ground-rule double down the right-field line and scored the tying run on a one-out double by freshman catcher Michael Hamrick.
The Explorers, who have been known to make things happen and force the opponents to make costly mistakes, have abandoned their small-ball tactics in recent weeks. Of course, it's hard to put pressure on the defense when you don't have very many baserunners.
"We've had more doubles thus far than we've had all of last year," Dice said. "We've done well when it comes to hitting the ball in the gap."
Like his counterpart on the mound, Merrill (0-2) was just about unhittable for much of the way.
He allowed just three hits and finished with six strikeouts and just one walk. Merrill retired the last six batters he faced and threw just 78 pitches.
"We have several guys who can throw in conference games," Dice said.
Hudson earned a 10-3 win over host Cuyahoga Falls in a National Conference showdown April 10 at Water Works Park.
The Explorers had an 8-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. Hudson had nine hits and two errors and the Black Tigers finished with three hits and two errors.
Junior right-hander Isaac Wiley struck out seven batters and issued three walks to improve to 2-0 on the mound.
Kilfoyle led the Explorers' offense with two hits, including a double, three stolen bases, five runs batted in and two runs scored. He also drew two walks.
Senior Johnny Colesi added two hits, two stolen bases and two runs scored and senior Spencer McClure had a single and two RBIs for Hudson. Sophomore Grant Gedeon reached base three times, stole two bases and drove in a run for Hudson.
The Explorers were set to host National Conference foe Stow-Munroe Falls April 13 at The Ballpark at Hudson. They were scheduled to visit Shaker Heights April 15. Results of those games were not available at press time.
Hudson is set to visit Stow April 17 before returning home to play National Conference rival Twinsburg April 18 and Falls April 19. All three games are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.