HUDSON — Much to the frustration of Wadsworth’s baseball team, the Suburban League National Conference championship will be decided in the final game of the season.
Always-gritty, well-coached defending champion Hudson deserved a ton of credit for rallying twice Tuesday to win 7-6 in 11 innings and 3 hours, 25 minutes. The grueling game ended on a walk-off passed ball with two outs, but the dejected Grizzlies felt they should have taken care of business much earlier.
Wadsworth (12-7, 9-4) failed to put itself in prime position for a share of the league and only has a home game today against the Explorers (9-7, 5-5) remaining. Brecksville (11-4, 8-4) and Stow (11-5, 7-3) are second in the loss column and can still give the Grizzlies a back-door title share with losses.
That was the last thing on coach Greg Pickard’s mind.
“We’ll see what we’re made of (today),” he said. “I told (the players), we’ve got the talent. You’ve got to want to do it. It’s almost like we’re letting teams hang around and it bites us.”
Wadsworth rallied from a 4-1 hole but blew a 5-4 lead in the sixth and 6-5 advantage in the 11th. The only passed ball of the Grizzlies’ 173rd pitches would have been a non-issue had Wadsworth not botched a potential inning-ending, double-play grounder on an errant throw to second base.
Going further, those two defensive miscues would have been non-issues had Wadsworth made more of its whopping 19 hits. The Grizzlies stranded runners in scoring position in the fifth, seventh, 10th and 11th and also overran second base on a routine sacrifice bunt that led to a double play in the eighth.
There certainly were standouts, however, as 2016 All-Gazette pick Josh Hagans had a huge game, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs and driving in the go-ahead score in the 11th. Austin Webb (3-for-5), Austen Manix (2-for-5), Nick Lallathin (2-for-3, 2 RBIs), Jake Peebles (2-for-4), Anthony Gannon (2-for-4, 2 sacrifices) and Matt Moore (2 sacrifices) also contributed.
“We preach tracking the ball long, using the whole field, and we’re not even getting good swings in good counts,” Pickard said. “We need to do a better job of getting our best swings.”
Wadsworth methodically clawed back and took a 6-5 lead on a RBI single from Peebles, but Hudson, which had seven stolen bases and three infield singles, used an infield single, sacrifice bunt and RBI single to tie in the sixth.
The next four innings were a duel between Grizzlies reliever Dylan Kubilus (3-2, 0.66 ERA) and counterpart Sylvan Wiley. The highlight was a bizarre seventh in which each team had a runner called out for batter interference on a steal attempt, with Pickard and Hudson’s Buddy Dice both arguing — sometimes successfully, sometimes not — due to rules confusion between the umpires.
Despite stranding runners on second and third in the seventh, 10th and 11th, Wadsworth still had a slight momentum advantage thanks to Kubilus, who allowed zero earned runs and three hits over 4 ⅔ innings and even contributed a bloop single and sacrifice bunt in the fourth and fifth plate appearances of his three-year career.
The Grizzlies simply made the final major defensive mistakes.
Hudson 7, Wadsworth 6 (11 inn.)
WADSWORTH 010 211 000 01 — 6 19 3
HUDSON 013 001 000 02 — 7 12 2
Two outs when winning run scored. WP — Stephen Bianconi ⅔inning, 0 runs, hit, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts. LP — Dylan Kubilus (3-2) 4⅔ innings, 2 runs, 0 earned, 3 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts. Wadsworth (12-7, 9-4) — Austen Manix 2 singles; Austin Webb 2 singles, double, run; Josh Hagans 3 singles, double, 3 RBIs, 2 runs; Nick Lallathin 2 singles, 2 RBIs; Anthony Gannon 2 singles; Jake Peebles 2 singles. Hudson (9-7, 5-5) — Ryan Mitcheltree 2 runs; Matt Mileski 3 singles; Nolan O’Connell single, double; Grant Gedeon 2 doubles, RBI, 2 runs; Blake Farley 2 singles, 2 RBIs, run.