HUDSON — If you’re a member of the Tallmadge baseball team, the rules are ruthlessly simple.

“Our goal is always to win a state championship,” 16th-year Blue Devils coach Kenny Linn said.

The proud Blue Devils were downright poised to keep that tradition going, but it didn’t go particularly well and their season came to an end in a 5-1 loss to Cleveland Benedictine in a Division II regional semifinal Friday afternoon at The Ballpark at Hudson.

Still, Tallmadge (17-8) reached the semifinals for the third consecutive year after winning a state title in 2017 and a regional championship last spring — all despite losing 10 players off last year's squad.

“It is a heck of a year,” Linn said. “I’ll never take away from the expectations of our program. It’s always to make deep runs. When you fall short of that ... when you get into the Sweet 16 and beyond, you still had a heck of a year.”

Making its first regional appearance in 33 years, Benedictine (23-7) looked nothing like a team that resembled a deer in the headlights. The Bengals got a strong performance from senior pitcher John Bufford, a big inning with the bats to take control of the game and some stellar defense.

Benedictine sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the third and scored four runs to take a 5-1 lead.

A run-scoring single by Daniel Keenan gave Benedictine a 3-1 lead and knocked senior ace left-hander Sam Seeker out of the game after just 2⅓ innings. Seeker (6-2) threw 64 pitches and walked three batters.

Although they hit some solid line drives, the Bengals didn’t blast the leather out of the baseball as several of Benedictine’s eight hits landed not far in front of Tallmadge’s fielders.

“They were just good enough to foul off pitches or just get enough of it to beat us,” Linn said. “That’s a good ball team over there.”

Seeker gave the ball to senior Todd Bangston, who allowed the crushing blow when senior Nick Demchuk ripped a two-run single to left to make it 5-1.

And that was all Bufford needed. The stocky right-hander discovered his rhythm quite nicely after a shaky first inning, when the Blue Devils had three of their six hits and scored their only run on senior Richie Eyre's single after a leadoff bloop double by Luke Thomas and a single to center by Seeker.

But Tallmadge’s momentum took a drastic turn when it had a baserunner called out because of interference later in the inning. The Blue Devils also had a baserunner tagged out after a successful steal of third in the fifth when a slide went a little too far off the base.

Ultimately, though, Tallmadge simply did not make solid contact nearly enough against Bufford, who held the Blue Devils to just two hits in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

“He had enough pitches that kept us off balance on balls we did hit hard,” Linn said of Bufford. “He was good enough to keep us at one run. We had him in some situations early. With a possible big hit, we could have put even more pressure on him.

“He settled in, they made some plays and they came up with some big hits. They found the spots that were open in front of us. I think it was a little more their day than it was ours.”