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GRANGER TOWNSHIP -- All season long, the Hudson softball team's defense has been a problem.
Once again, the Lady Explorers' defense had issues.
As a result, Hudson's season is over.
The sixth-seeded Lady Explorers suffered a 6-1 defeat to third-seeded Highland in a Barberton Division I sectional title game May 10 in Granger Township.
Hudson fell to 7-14 overall. The Lady Hornets, who shared the Suburban League American Conference championship with Tallmadge during the regular season, improved to 18-5.
Highland scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, thanks to three Lady Explorer errors. All five of those runs were unearned.
"We were sailing along and then the wheels kind of fell off in the fifth inning," Hudson first-year head coach Jeff Kurtz said.
Leading 1-0, Lady Hornets' right-handed pitcher Brittany Fleischer got things started in the fifth with a single to center field. Second baseman Morgan Belsole followed with a single to left.
And then things fell apart for the Lady Explorers.
The next batter, left fielder Sam Kainec, laid down a sacrifice bunt. Kainec wound up being safe at first as the ball was dropped. That allowed Fleischer to score from second and Belsole moved to third.
Hudson right-hander Sara Gedeon got the next batter to strike out swinging, but she walked designated player Madison Williams to load the bases.
Center fielder Alex Csorba than hit a liner to the outfield that was dropped. The error allowed three runs to score and Csorba moved to third.
The next batter, third baseman Alex Pasco, reached on an error and shortstop Hanna Griffin followed with a single to score the last two runs.
The Lady Explorers ended the inning on a double play where it got the last out at third base.
Csorba also drove in Highland's first run in the second with a single. She had three hits and reached base all four times.
Hudson's offense, on the other hand, could not solve Fleischer, who pitched all nine innings during Highland's 2-1 win over Tallmadge May 9.
Fleischer threw just 72 pitches in seven innings and faced a two-ball count or more just twice. She fell behind on the first pitch just three times and at one point, she threw 23 strikes in a row.
Fleischer struck out eight batters and walked one while allowing just four hits. She retired the first 11 batters in order.
"She [Fleischer] did a nice job of getting ahead of the count," Kurtz said. "We want our hitters to be aggressive. At the same time, we want to see some pitches. And that means fouling some pitches off. She kept pounding the strike zone."
Meanwhile, Gedeon had to do much more work in the pitcher's circle.
She thew 129 pitches and allowed seven hits in six innings of work. Gedeon, playing in her final high school postseason game, struck out four and walked six.
The Lady Explorers scored their only run in the sixth.
Pinch hitter Bri Bellanco led off with a bunt single toward third. After a pop out, shortstop Kayla Tucciarelli drew a walk.
Fleischer got a fly ball for the second out, but right fielder Mariah Duncan drove in Bellanco with a single off the end of the bat toward right field.
Highland stranded 10 runners and was just 3 of 17 with runners in scoring position. Hudson stranded three runners and was 1 of 7 with runners on base. The Lady Explorers also committed five errors.
"We just didn't have enough firepower," Kurtz said. "We needed to get base runners to try and shake things up, but we didn't do that."
Gedeon, who plans to play at Dominican College in Orangeburg, N.Y., Bellanco, left fielder Gillian Swan and outfielder Lydia Riddell concluded their postseason careers May 10.
"Other than Sara, they didn't get a letter until this year," Kurtz said. "All of them have been part of the program for four years.
"Sara gets a chance to play at the next level. We're certainly proud of her for that. Gillian is our vocal leader. Lydia and Bri worked hard. It's hard to see the seniors go out on a tough note, but they toughed it out."
Despite the loss, Kurtz certainly had a blast.
"I love coaching softball and I love coaching Hudson softball," he said. "We started out with low numbers and we struggled on the defensive side of the ball, but I enjoyed it."
Host Hudson reached the sectional title game after posting a 10-0 victory over 11th-seeded Akron Firestone May 9. The game was called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Duncan, a right-hander, got the win to improve to 5-4 in the pitcher's circle. She finished with 12 strikeouts and allowed just three hits.
Gedeon had a double and a triple and two runs batted in and Martha Masich had two hits, two runs scored and an RBI for Hudson.
Cami Madar added two hits and an RBI and Swan had a single and two RBIs for the Lady Explorers, who had 11 hits and two errors.
Hudson led 4-0 after three innings and put the contest away with six runs in the bottom of the fifth.
The Lady Falcons had four errors.
The host Lady Explorers finished 6-8 in the Suburban League National Conference after losing to Brecksville-Broadview Heights 10-7 May 8.
Hudson scored seven runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a 7-1 lead.
But the Lady Bees scored five runs in the fifth and three runs in the sixth to take control.
Hudson had seven hits and three errors and Brecksville finished with 14 hits and one error.
Riddell, Kayla Tucciarelli, Duncan and Masich had a run-scoring singles in the second.
Gedeon took the loss for the Lady Explorers, who struck out 13 times against Lady Bees' pitching.
The Lady Explorers were scheduled to host Massillon Jackson May 11. They were set to conclude their season by hosting a doubleheader against Crestwood May 13. Results of those games were not available at press time.