CUYAHOGA FALLS — Olivia Stefanoni couldn’t help herself.
She knew she got all of a fastball in the middle of the plate and she found herself temporarily stuck in cement.
“I started to jog a little bit because I thought it was over,” Stefanoni said. “I was like, ‘Oh shoot. It’s not over.’”
Stefanoni’s bomb wound up hitting the upper part of the fence in right-center field. Once she knew the ball wasn’t going to land in orbit, Stefanoni picked up the pace and wound up with a stand-up double.
That brain freeze was certainly regrettable for the Hudson junior left-handed pitcher.
Everything else, on the other hand, was just peachy.
Thanks to Stefanoni’s gem in the circle, the Explorers improved to 5-0 after cruising past host Cuyahoga Falls 9-1 in a Suburban League National Conference softball game. The contest took place Monday at Harrington Field.
Stefanoni struck out 10 Black Tigers and walked just one, while allowing five hits in seven innings of work to improve to 3-0 in 2019.
Her wandering eyes didn’t diminish her performance at the plate, either. Stefanoni finished with three hits in four at-bats and also scored a run.
Hudson, which improved to 3-0 in the National Conference, put the game out of reach with an eight-spot in the top of the second.
“I’m really proud of everyone for coming together this game and just keeping the runs on the board,” Stefanoni said. “They kept pushing the entire game and never let up.”
Oddly enough, it wasn’t all cake and ice cream for the imposing southpaw.
She started the game with three straight pitches out of the strike zone and then allowed a hit to the following batter.
However, Stefanoni found her rhythm and retired nine in a row after a somewhat shaky first inning.
“I start a little slow and then I usually get better throughout the game,” Stefanoni said.
In the past, Stefanoni had some issues with her command. It wasn’t surprising to see the standout junior under duress as opponents surrounded the bases.
The first inning certainly looked like the laboring Stefanoni of old. But the new and improved version of the talented hurler quickly came out of her cocoon and cruised the rest of the way.
“She did a nice job,” Explorers head coach Jeff Kurtz said. “She struggled a little bit with her location. I told her after the game, when she did miss, she missed in good spots. She only left a couple balls over the plate.”
One of those fatter pitches led to Falls’ only run.
Black Tigers’ center fielder Tommie Thompson hit a lazy fly ball that carried into left-center field.
The ball looked like it was going to be caught, but it ended up landing in the grass for a single.
Thompson wound up reaching second because of a throwing error and eventually scored on a double by the next batter, right fielder Kylee Phillips.
Fortunately for Hudson, the Black Tigers’ rally turned out to be short-lived.
Phillips wound up being thrown out at third and Stefanoni retired the next five batters in order to end the game.
“I thought this game was probably my best game of the season so far,” Stefanoni said. “I had a lot more strikeouts.”
Stefanoni didn’t hibernate during the winter.
She spent numerous hours fine-tuning her mechanics in both the circle and at the plate.
“This winter, I’ve done a lot of pitching lessons,” Stefanoni said. “I also completely redid my entire swing. I’ve been working hard on it.”
Stefanoni’s body of work this spring has been nothing short of admirable.
But the rising star flamethrower has learned her lesson.
She’s not going to admire her work until the season is completed.
Especially when she launches another rocket toward the fence.
“I just had to keep running,” Stefanoni said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org.