HUDSON — Much like a quarterback or a goaltender in ice hockey, a pitcher can impact the game like no one else.
On Wednesday, one such hurler learned far too well why the pitcher’s circle can be an absolute house of horrors.
And that was perfectly fine with the Hudson softball team.
The host Explorers made a sizzling 2019 debut with a lopsided 17-0 victory over Garfield Heights Wednesday.
Hudson took advantage of 11 walks, three hit batters and a surplus of wild pitches and passed balls. The Bulldogs also committed two errors as the Explorers scored all of their runs in the first two innings.
When the final out was recorded by Garfield Heights in the bottom of the second inning, Hudson leadoff hitter Laurel Gomersal, the team’s starting catcher, made her fourth appearance in the batter’s box.
The victim of this never-ending avalanche was Mena Pobega, who struggled with her release point throughout her three innings of work.
"I’ve been there," Explorers head coach Jeff Kurtz said. "Softball, unfortunately, is a pitcher’s game and if you don’t have a pitcher, games can be really, really long. Sometimes, even if you have a good pitcher, it can get rough.
"Being a pitcher myself, that’s a lonely, lonely place out there when it’s not going well."
The opposing pitcher, on the other hand, had no such control issues.
Sophomore Madison Roukey dominated the hapless Garfield Heights’ hitters with her electrifying array of pitches.
Roukey, who established herself as the team’s ace last spring, struck out 12 batters in five innings of work as the game was called after the top of the fifth because of the 10-run mercy rule.
As a result of Roukey’s dominance, the Bulldogs (1-1) made contact in the field of play just four times.
One of those cuts cost Roukey a perfect game.
Second baseman Coby Burns had Garfield Heights’ lone hit when she smacked a one-out single to left-center field in the fourth.
"She’s throwing pretty well," Kurtz said of Roukey. "I told her I’m proud of her for getting ahead of the hitters. She and I are on the same page as far as pitch selection. We talked before the game. I thought she did a nice job locating her pitches."
Roukey won’t be considered a nibbler when it comes to her approach in the circle.
She brought the hard stuff for most of the afternoon and made a habit of putting hitters in precarious positions by working the count in her favor.
"Getting ahead of the hitters is extremely important," Kurtz said. "It doesn’t matter what kind of team you’re playing. If you’re a pitcher, you want to get ahead of the hitters."
Roukey was equally as impressive at the plate.
She reached base in all four of her plate appearances and had a two-run single.
Third baseman Cami Madar, Hudson’s lone senior, also reached base in all four of her plate appearances and had two hits, two RBIs and three runs scored.
Junior left fielder Macy Peck had a stellar day for the Explorers, as well.
She had two hits, three runs scored and two RBIs. Freshman center fielder Paige Albrecht contributed two hits, two runs and an RBI.
Thanks to this stellar hitting display and, of course, the alarming amount of free passes, all nine members of Hudson’s starting batting order reached base at least twice.
"I thought we did a nice job for the most part," Kurtz said. "We certainly scored enough runs for Maddie Roukey to kind of coast a little bit."
All in all, it was a strong performance for the Explorers even if their best strategy for a majority of the way was to keep the bat on their shoulders.
And it wasn’t a typical dreary afternoon in March. The temperatures were in the mid-50s and the sun stayed visible the entire game.
"This is probably one of the nicer openers that we’ve had," Kurtz said. "This was about a perfect day for softball right here. If we can get 25 more of these days, I’d be really happy."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.