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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 earned a 2-1 victory over the Explorers in a Suburban League National Conference showdown April 12 in Macedonia.
Nordonia also lost to Suburban League crossover rival Aurora 6-2 April 14 on the road, defeated National Conference foe Cuyahoga Falls 15-1 April 13 at Waters Works Park and beat National Conference rival Brecksville-Broadview Heights 8-4 April 10 at home.
The Knights were 8-3 overall and 5-0 in the National Conference as of press time.
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 on 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 (7-3, 3-2) 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.
"That's what I love about these guys," Hoisington said. "They keep playing the game and they keep fighting.
"I love this league. You're facing somebody every game that's really good. We'll probably have a different winner in this league for the next 10 years."
The game against the Black Tigers was called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule. The Knights, who had nine hits and zero errors, scored nine runs in the top of the fifth.
Nolan got the win on the mound to improve to 2-0 in 2017.
O'Donnell led Nordonia's offense with three hits, including a double, and four runs batted in.
Against the Bees, the Knights broke open a tie game with three runs in the fourth and one run in the fifth. Nordonia had 13 hits and two errors.
Heiser had two doubles and three RBIs and Crockett had three hits, including a home run, and three RBIs.
Nordonia was scheduled to host Cuyahoga Falls April 17 and National Conference rival North Royalton April 18. Results were not available at press time.
The Knights are set to visit Brecksville April 19 before returning home to play North Royalton April 20. Both games are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.
Nordonia is set to entertain Shaker Heights April 22 at 11 a.m. The Knights are scheduled to host Twinsburg April 25 at 4:30 p.m.