HUDSON — When it comes to a pair of neighboring schools located near Stow Road, the rivalry is as lively as ever.
"We’ve always had a great rivalry with them," Hudson head softball coach Jeff Kurtz said of Stow-Munroe Falls. "We enjoy playing them and they enjoy playing us. We have struggled against them the last couple years."
On Tuesday, the Explorers treated the game as if it was their most important showdown of the season.
As for the Bulldogs, well, let’s just say they’ve had better days.
Host Hudson cruised to a shocking 13-0 victory over Stow in a Suburban League National Conference showdown.
With the win, the Explorers improved to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the conference. The Bulldogs, who lost several key players from last year’s district runner-up squad to graduation, fell to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
Understandably, Stow second-year coach Allison Lewandowski barely recognized her players on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs, who had owned their northern rival in recent years, gave up a whopping 10 runs in the bottom of the fourth.
As a result, the game ended after 4 ½ innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
"That’s not the Bulldogs we know," Lewandowski said. "We have a lot of new faces and we’re growing as a team. But [Tuesday], we just didn’t play as a team. We can’t win games that way."
The star on this cool, but sunny afternoon was rising star pitcher Madison Roukey.
The standout sophomore pitched five innings and finished with 10 strikeouts and no walks. She allowed four hits and hit a batter.
Roukey also was a force at the plate. She finished with three hits in three at bats, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Roukey had plenty of help.
As has been the case throughout the spring, the Explorers were solid defensively and they continued to rip the cover off the ball.
All nine Hudson starters reached base and when a base was available, they took it with rather brute force.
The Explorers scored three runs in the second and took advantage of a passed ball and a wild pitch.
Third baseman Cami Madar, Hudson’s lone senior, had two hits, including a double, two RBIs and three runs scored.
First baseman Olivia Stefanoni and right fielder Paige Albrecht also had run-scoring singles for the Explorers, who also scored a run on a bases-loaded walk.
"We’re playing pretty confidently right now," Kurtz said. "They’re doing a great job of picking each other up.
"For the first time in a while, I’m not worried when we face pitcher’s counts. When we’re down in the count, we’re doing a pretty good job of maintaining our composure."
Stow starter Katie Kelly, who blanked Hudson 2-0 in a rain-shortened game last spring, took the loss.
The Bulldogs have a number of new faces playing varsity softball for the first time.
Thus far, Stow has been holding up admirably despite its lack of experience.
Tuesday’s meltdown, on the other hand, was a step backward, according to Lewandowski.
"They’re just trying to figure it out," she said. "I think it’s just losing the groove and getting back into it. It definitely wasn’t the outcome we wanted. We were just not in it."
As for Hudson, the good times continue to roll. Nonetheless, championships are not won during the second week of April.
Fortunately for Kurtz, his players don’t need to be reminded of such a fact.
"The one thing I like about this group is, I don’t think they are ever going to get too far ahead of themselves," Kurtz said. "I think they’re very content to take things one game at a time, one inning at a time.
"What’s important is what we’re doing right now, right in the moment. Get your job done when your up there; get your job done what the ball is hit to you. If you make a mistake, let it go, stay confident and just keep playing softball."
Lewandowski, on the other hand, believes her team’s listless performance is an aberration.
"We’re going to bounce back," she said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.