HUDSON — When it comes to the 2019 season, the members of the Hudson softball team had one specific priority.
That would be a conference championship, right?
How about a district title?
Were they bold enough to consider the Final Four or maybe even the coveted state crown?
None of those things were hot topics when it came to the one accomplishment they wanted most.
All the Explorers wanted to do was take down a certain nemesis that had tormented them in recent years.
And that nemesis happens to wear maroon and gold colors.
Maybe their goal was a bit modest considering how well they have played this spring.
But this came completely out of nowhere.
Host Hudson finally got the best of its rival to the south with a stunning 13-0 victory over Stow-Munroe Falls Tuesday.
With the win, the surging Explorers improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Suburban League National Conference. The Bulldogs, who were decimated by graduation after reaching a district final last spring, fell to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
If you don’t hang around the Hudson players much, you wouldn’t be completely out of line if you considered this rampage an absolute shocker.
As for sophomore Madison Roukey and the rest of her teammates?
They saw this coming from miles away.
“I wasn’t surprised by the outcome,” Roukey said. “I knew we had it in us. We were really looking forward to this game. We wanted to beat Stow since last year.”
Roukey certainly did her part.
The rising star hurler struck out 10 batters and allowed just four hits against the Bulldogs, who defeated the Explorers twice in 2018.
Roukey, who improved to 3-0 this spring, also was her usual menacing presence at the plate.
The standout sophomore, who emerged as the team’s ace last year, had three hits, two RBIs and two runs scored.
And yes, the fact that she did it against a certain conference rival located approximately 15 minutes from Hudson Aurora Road made it even sweeter.
“It was really important to us,” Roukey said. “It was probably our No. 1 goal this season.”
What made Hudson’s triumph even more impressive was how easily it took place.
The Explorers took advantage of some control problems by Stow starter Kate Kelly to score three runs in the bottom of the second.
And then Hudson put the contest completely out of reach with a 10 spot in the fourth.
As a result, not only did the Explorers dominate an opponent that had bullied them in recent years, they also did it in practically record time.
The game was called after 4 ½ innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
“We were all really excited and it was really exciting to jump out of the gate and take the early lead,” Roukey said.
Hudson’s success thus far can be largely attributed to its fabulous group of freshmen.
Nonetheless, the golden arm and extraordinary athleticism of another underclassman will determine if the Explorers are indeed the real deal when the ides of May arrives.
Last year’s “Roukey” of the Year has shown no signs of sophomore jinx. And that is a very, very promising sign for Hudson.
“She has worked hard since she was a little kid,” Explorers head coach Jeff Kurtz said. “She’s going to play at the next level. In my mind, she’s a Division I college athlete. She understands the game of softball.”
Despite all of the new faces, team chemistry has not been an issue for Hudson. The plethora of underclassmen has brought the kind of energy and enthusiasm that could be something special for years to come.
A certain sophomore certainly thinks so.
“I think this year, our team has really bonded,” Roukey said. “We’re working really well together. I think, more than last year, we’re taking advantage of the small mistakes and getting early leads. We’re putting everything together.”
Kurtz certainly knows it’s still way too early to start partying like it’s 2009 when the Explorers were a state power.
At the same time, though, he knows he has a gifted and dedicated young lady who eats, drinks and breathes softball 24/7.
“Maddie is a gamer,” Kurtz said. “I love the way she approaches a game. I’ve talked with her about the game, picking her brain. She loves it.”
So, um, what is the Hudson players’ top priority now that they tamed the once formidable Bulldogs?
If you’re looking for something rather grandiose, you simply don’t know the Explorers.
“Now that we’ve accomplished that, we’re focused on the next game,” Roukey said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.