HUDSON — Throughout the years, the Hudson-Stow-Munroe Falls rivalry has provided its share of drama, thrills, elation and heartbreak whenever they take the softball field.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, there was nothing but heartbreak this time.
The top-seeded Explorers cruised to a five-inning 11-1 victory over eighth-seeded Stow in a Solon Division I sectional title game Wednesday in Hudson.
With the win, the Explorers (16-1) earned a date with the Boardman-Canfield winner in a district semifinal game Monday at Roxbury Elementary in Solon. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.
It is Hudson’s first district semifinal appearance since 2016. The Explorers also defeated the Bulldogs in two Suburban League National Conference showdowns during the regular season.
"I’ve known [second-year Stow head coach] Allison [Lewandowski] for a long time," Explorers head coach Jeff Kurtz said. "We’ve always had a good rivalry with Stow. We’ve had some great games over the years.
"They’re always a big rival. We never, ever take them lightly."
Hudson certainly brought its bats to the park Wednesday. The Explorers finished with 12 hits and got a towering solo home run over the right-center field fence by their lone senior, third baseman Cami Madar.
But the Bulldogs didn’t help themselves.
They committed four errors that led to six unearned runs. In fact, all of Hudson’s five runs in the second inning were unearned.
"It got away from us," said Lewandowski, whose team still had some regular-season games to play. "We allowed the errors to take over the game instead of us playing ball. It just didn’t go our way, obviously."
"We have to learn from it and make adjustments for next year. I told them, I want you to come in and finish strong.’"
The hitting clinic and Stow’s woes in the field provided plenty of cushion for Olivia Stefanoni.
The Explorers’ junior left-hander went the distance in the circle and allowed no earned runs while striking out six batters to improve to 8-0.
Oddly enough, Stefanoni was the lone batter in Hudson’s lineup who did not reach base.
Freshman center fielder Laurel Gomersal finished with two singles, three RBIs and two runs scored as the Explorers’ leadoff hitter.
Sophomore first baseman Maddie Roukey also had two hits, two RBIs and a run scored and junior right fielder Macy Peck had two singles, a walk and two runs scored for Hudson.
One of the Explorers’ other older players, junior second baseman Sadie Mrakuzic, reached base three times and scored two runs.
"Our pitching has been very solid," Kurtz said. "The last couple games, we struggled at the plate. We had three hits against Chardon [Monday]; we struck out 10 times against Wadsworth [Tuesday]. We came out [Wednesday] and the bats were on."
Second baseman Jenna Stout drove in the Bulldogs’ lone run with a sacrifice fly in the third inning. Stow (6-12) finished with just three hits.
Junior pitcher Katie Kelly (4-7) took the loss for the Bulldogs. She was relieved by senior Macie Bell in the second before returning back to the circle in the third.
Lewandowski said goodbye to Bell, who plans to continue her softball career at West Liberty University in Wheeling, West Virginia, Stout and seniors Ellie Arlequeew (center fielder), Jocelyn Zamiska (left fielder) and Chloe Ratta.
"We’re losing a good core group again," Lewandowski said. "I wish them well."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.