HUDSON — She was totally stoked about her pitcher’s performance.
Everything else, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired, according to Tallmadge first-year head softball coach Brittany Lightel.
"Hallie [Mullett] threw one heck of a game," she said. "Our bats were just sleeping [Thursday]."
The Blue Devils’ opponent on Thursday, has put just about everybody to sleep this spring.
That opponent is Hudson, a squad that is taking the area by storm after enduring a pair of losing seasons.
The Explorers’ rampage continued with a 3-1 victory over Suburban League crossover rival Tallmadge, a team that has a pretty decent track record over the years.
With the win, Hudson improved to 7-0. The Blue Devils, the defending Suburban League American Conference champions who have won seven state titles in their illustrious history, dropped to 8-4.
The Explorers, who won their only state title in 2007 and were the state runners-up in 2009, got another strong pitching performance from Olivia Stefanoni.
The standout left-hander allowed just six hits and finished with 10 strikeouts and no walks. Stefanoni hit one batter and escaped a pair of errors to improve to 4-0 this spring.
After struggling during the early part of the season, Stefanoni came on strong down the stretch and has continued her massive progress in 2019.
"Last year, Liv was our No. 3 pitcher," Hudson head softball coach Jeff Kurtz said. "She did some things, both as a pitcher and a hitter and a first baseman, that were much better than we felt she did as a freshman.
"Now she knows, it’s her and Maddie [Roukey]. I told them both at the beginning of the season, you’re probably going to share time. They’re both going to warm up pretty much for every game. We may make a last-minute decision on who’s going to go, but they’re both going to get plenty of innings."
The Blue Devils are blessed with an abundance of aces, too. Left-hander Hallie Mullett, Tallmadge’s No. 2 pitcher, also went the distance in the circle.
Unfortunately for Mullett, her defense let her down.
The Blue Devils committed two errors that led to a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Roukey led off the frame with a double down the left-field line. She moved to third on a sacrifice fly and came home when the throw got away on a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Ava Butina.
Mullett was able to retire the next two batters, but Tallmadge got another run, thanks to an infield error. That costly miscue allowed Butina to score from third. As a result, Hudson took a 3-0 lead.
The Explorers scored their first run in the second.
Again, Roukey got things started with a one-out single. Butina followed with a tricky fly ball that may have been aided by the wind. The ball wound up dropping to the grass in deep left field and Butina wound up with a double to put two runners in scoring position.
Right fielder Macy Peck followed with an infield single that scored Roukey.
Tallmadge scored its only run in the top of the seventh.
Right fielder Chloie Brown, who bats ninth in the order, smacked a two-out single to center. Second baseman Katie Rinehart, who led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch, scored on Brown’s base knock.
The next batter, center fielder Autumn Malicoat, then reached on an error to put the tying run in scoring position.
But Stefanoni got out of the jam by getting a strikeout to end the game.
"When she doesn’t have her ‘A’ game or she doesn’t have her best stuff, Liv has done a much better job," Kurtz said. "I think she’s much more mature now. She understands she has to battle through some of that."
Hudson, which had been battering teams left and right prior to Thursday, finished with just seven hits off Mullett. But Kurtz will take them anyway he can get them.
Especially against a quality squad that could go deep in the Division II tournament.
"We told the girls before the game, ‘This is not a team to be taken lightly,’" Kurtz said. "They hit the ball; they put the ball in play; they got some speed. We got a pretty good softball team [Thursday]."
Lightel was certainly impressed with her bigger-school rival. While she didn’t particularly care for the outcome, Lightel knows a game like this can pay huge dividends down the road.
"They have a young team, but as I said at the beginning of the season, you can’t take anyone lightly," Lightel said. "They’re definitely one of the teams that maybe we took too lightly. We were not as educated as we should have been about how good they were.
"They have a great program. We saw that teams can adjust. They know we have some competition ahead of us."
The Blue Devils saw a lot of strikes called on the outer and upper parts of the plate. Such a sight has been all too familiar for Lightel.
"That has been our common theme," Lightel said. "We struggle with adjusting. We struggled with adjusting to slow pitching. This was kind of the opposite. We struggled adjusting to the strike zone a little bit. We were just so inconsistent."
Tallmadge is still trying to figure out its defensive lineup. Prior to the season, Lightel told her players they will see time in spots that weren’t familiar to them.
That familiarity process will take some time, according to Lightel.
"We have made some adjustments to our infield," Lightel said. "We have a lot of girls playing new positions. Even from the beginning of the season, all of our infield is different. I feel like I change it up every day.
"We’ve had some things thrown in there that we’ve had to make some adjustments in fielding, as well. Coming together and getting comfortable, I’m trying to find that out quickly, so we can get comfortable playing together. That’s definitely a struggle right now."
Although his team’s win total continues to pile up rather rapidly, Kurtz knows there is a long way to go before fans of the blue and white can relive the glory days of the latter 2000s.
Nonetheless, unlike his latest opponent, Kurtz’s defense and lineup appears to be set in stone. And the Explorers are enjoying the results thus far.
"We’re playing pretty good softball right now," Kurtz said. "We’re getting outstanding pitching. Softball has always been a pitcher’s game.
"When you get pitching like that, it takes a lot of pressure off your offense. And when your offense puts runs on the board, it takes a lot of pressure off your pitchers. That’s a great relationship, offensively and defensively for softball."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.