HUDSON — He probably won’t plan any vacation time in the coming weeks.
But Hudson head softball coach Jeff Kurtz knows he doesn’t have to work overtime when it comes to his talented team.
The Explorers seemed to be cruising along on autopilot.
Host Hudson remained unbeaten after completing a doubleheader sweep against perennial Division III powerhouse Crestwood Saturday.
The Explorers rolled to a 9-0 victory in the first game and then got some last at-bat theatrics to earn a hard-fought 3-2 win.
With the victories, Hudson, which won just 11 games last season, improved to 9-0. The Red Devils dropped to 6-4.
It’s a safe bet Kurtz won’t be second-guessed for getting too involved in the decision-making process. For him, staying out of the way might be the best tactic to keep the good times rolling.
"I’m pretty lucky right now," Kurtz said. "I pencil the names in the lineup and the kids go out there and play ball. You can’t ask for any more than that."
The Explorers certainly allowed their coach to sit back and relax in the first game.
Hudson scored eight runs in the second to put the contest out of reach.
The inning featured the first career varsity home run by freshman Ava Butina, who smacked a two-strike pitch over the fence in dead center field, followed by consecutive doubles from junior Macy Peck, who had two hits in the inning, and freshmen Aubrey Hill and Laurel Gomersal.
Freshman Katie Carrillo also had a run-scoring triple in the frame.
Gomersal and Carrillo each had three hits, and Maddie Roukey, who pitched a complete-game three-hitter in the circle, had two hits and two RBIs.
Roukey finished with nine strikeouts and improved to 4-0 this spring.
Oddly enough, Kurtz said Roukey’s right arm wasn’t functioning as smoothly as it normally does.
Quite a scary thought for future opponents, huh?
"She just didn’t feel like she had her really good stuff," Kurtz said. "She didn’t feel like her riseball was exploding like it normally does. We talked about how she was feeling and what pitches she felt comfortable with. We kind of made adjustments on calling pitches and setting up hitters.
"She understands that part of the game and she did a great job making the adjustment. I told her, ‘Good pitchers learn how to win when they don’t have their best stuff.’"
The second game was far more dramatic.
Explorers’ left-hander Olivia Stefanoni experienced both agony and elation in a span of several minutes.
She gave up a game-tying single with two outs to left fielder Samantha Toke in the top of the seventh.
However, Stefanoni got a chance to redeem herself in the bottom half of the inning.
Gomersal got things started with a triple toward the fence in right center. But Red Devils’ starter Mikayla Berquist got two crucial outs on consecutive force plays. The latter out was a play at the plate to get Gomersal.
That set the stage for Stefanoni, who smacked a two-strike pitch over the left fielder’s head to score the game-winning run.
"If the pitchers are working you away, you have to be able and be willing to let that ball go a little deeper on you and take it the other way," Kurtz said. "The better the pitcher, the tougher that is to do.
"Liv stayed on it. She kept her hands above the ball and drove it to the fence."
Hudson scored its first run in the bottom of the first when Roukey had a run-scoring single to right.
The Explorers got creative when it came to scoring their second run.
After Stefanoni reached on an error to lead off the fifth, she was removed by Hill, who entered the game as a courtesy runner.
Hill immediately went to second on a wild pitch. Senior Cami Madar followed with a single to put runners on the corners.
Madar was then caught in a rundown between first and second. Such a tactic was planned as Madar tap-danced for several seconds as the Crestwood infielders chased her.
Madar’s stall tactics proved beneficial as Hill easily raced home, standing up.
The Red Devils made it 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to a leadoff walk, a throwing error and a wild pitch.
A close call like this one may have been necessary for Kurtz’s young team.
"For us, that’s the first time we’ve been in that situation, certainly that late in the game," Kurtz said. "I was looking to see what our kids were going to do and they responded."
Crestwood has quite a rich tradition on the softball field over the years. And the Red Devils aren’t afraid to play against any opponent, regardless of its size.
"They’ve been good," Kurtz said. "We’ve played them the last few years. We started playing them when my good friend Luke Darrah was coaching there. They’ve been a good matchup. We’ve had some really good games against them."
While Kurtz enjoys sitting back and watching, he knows his players can’t lose sight of the step-by-step process that has been working so beautifully thus far.
"I think winning is fun; I think winning is contagious," Kurtz said. "We want to focus on each step of the way. Win the pitch, win the at-bat, win the inning. Do those things you have to do to be successful, and good things will happen."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.