SOLON — She felt quite lousy in recent days.
Hudson’s standout pitcher, Maddie Roukey, was under the weather and hadn’t been her typical dominant self on the softball field.
So how did the soft-spoken sophomore feel after participating in the biggest game of her life?
“I feel great,” Roukey said. “I’m feeling a lot better now.”
Such a statement is comforting news for the Explorers. And now they have a chance to do something no Hudson team has done since 2011.
Win a district title.
Thanks to Roukey’s dominant performance, the top-seeded Explorers held off fourth-seeded Boardman 2-0 in a Solon Division I district semifinal game Wednesday at Roxbury Elementary School.
With the win, Hudson (19-1) reached a district final for the first time since it won the Akron district championship eight years ago.
Roukey, who improved to 10-1 in 2019, allowed just two hits and finished with nine strikeouts and two walks in seven innings of work.
And more importantly, the untimely bug that hindered her for what seemed like an eternity has finally been exterminated.
“She was a little under the weather,” Kurtz said. “She’s fine. She has been in big games before. She doesn’t get too far left of center. We’ve played good defense behind her all year.”
Although her track record speaks for itself, Roukey has had her share of moments where everything wasn’t functioning smoothly.
That was not the case Wednesday.
“I thought I did really well,” Roukey said. “Most of my pitches were moving really well. I think I kept hitters off-balance a lot.”
The Spartans also had a formidable hurler in the circle.
Freshman Madison Lester kept the Explorers’ bats in check for most of the way.
But Hudson was able to push a couple of baserunners across the plate, thanks to some aggressive base running.
Freshman designated player Hannah McCray scored on a fielder’s choice in the third inning and freshman catcher Katie Carrillo boldly scored from second on a sacrifice fly to deep center field by senior third baseman Cami Madar.
“I think we did what we had to do,” Roukey said. “We got hits when we needed them and we did some really good base running.”
It wasn’t all peaches and cream for Roukey.
Boardman had just one hit in eight at-bats with runners on base.
“I like to think I can keep my composure pretty well in the circle,” Roukey said. “I like to have the ball in pressure situations, so I was pretty calm.”
Roukey helped her own cause by using her speedy reflexes to field a hard-hit grounder and then start a 1-6-3 double play in the in the top of the first.
She also fielded a tricky ground ball cleanly to get the second out in the seventh.
“She plugged up the middle really nice,” Kurtz said. “She works on that stuff. It’s not accidental. Maddie works on all phases of her game. She works on her pitching; she works on her spin; she works on her movement; she works on her location; she works on her hitting; she works on her fielding.”
Roukey had just one hit at the plate against the Spartans. But that one base knock had her coach gushing.
“She hit a ball that almost took the shortstop’s glove off,” Kurtz said. “Not too many kids can hit the ball as hard as she does.
“She has had a heck of a season. She’s a good kid; she’s a hard worker.”
Kurtz will certainly cherish every moment he gets to spend with his once-in-a-generation athlete.
And here’s the scary part.
Roukey, a relentless perfectionist, may only be scratching the surface when it comes to her massive array of skills.
“What she does out there does not surprise me,” Kurtz said. “She has worked to be able to achieve that.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.