Pickoff goes awry, AHS baseball season ends

by FRANK ACETO | ASSOCIATE SPORTS EDITOR Published:

Canton -- It was a play they had worked on time and time again.

And with two outs, the Greenmen had a golden opportunity to make all that practice worthwhile. Unfortunately for the locals, it turned out to be disastrous.

The Greenmen's season came to an end after losing a 4-1 decision to Hudson in a Division I regional semifinal contest May 29 at Thurman Munson Stadium.

Aurora, which finished 20-9 in 2014 after reaching the Division I state semifinals last year, will be remembered for one harmful play.

That play is one of the reasons why the Greenmen are not playing any more this season.

With two outs in the top of the seventh inning, left-hander A.J. Kimes, who was working on a masterful complete-game shutout, tried to pick off the Explorers' Nanak Saran, who was leaning in the wrong direction off second base.

His throw went into centerfield and Saran scored the tying run. Hudson added three runs in the eighth, and the Greenmen's stellar season came to a heartbreaking close.

"We worked on that play all week," Aurora head coach Tim Deering said. "We knew that's what Hudson was going to do. We just made a bad throw. It's unfortunate."

The Explorers made sure the Greenmen paid for their crucial mistake.

In the eighth, Jake Stuursma got things started when he reached base after getting hit by a pitch to start the inning against right-handed reliever Adam Long.

Braden Wright and Dan Joseph followed with back-to-back walks to load the bases and then Joey Cahill drove in the go-ahead run without taking the bat off his shoulders.

Cahill drew a bases-loaded walk from right-handed reliever Carter Semancik. Kevin Zullo followed with a run-scoring groundout to short and then Jacob McKenzie made it 4-1 with a bunt single.

That was plenty for Zullo, a right-hander who improved to 7-1.

Zullo avoided a two-out walk in the last of the eighth to finish the game. He struck out nine batters and allowed just three hits in eight innings of work. The lone run he gave up was unearned.

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

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

Kimes, a sophomore, gave up no earned runs in seven innings of work. He allowed just three hits and walked four batters. Aurora had one error and Hudson had two.

"We got everything we wanted from A.J.," Deering said. "That's what we expect from our sophomore pitcher. He has a bright future."

Despite the devastating loss, the Greenmen have been on quite a roll in recent years. They will lose seniors Griff Peterson, Jack Updyke, Tom Branstein, Kirk Janoch and Luke Calcei to graduation.

"We've won 67 games in the last three years," Deering said. "We're building a program."

Email: faceto@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9444

Twitter: @FrankAceto_RPC

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