Hudson softball, led by Maddie Roukey, enters 2021 season with high expectations

Ashley Bastock
Kent Weeklies
Maddie Roukey gets ready to deliver the pitch during Hudson's 2-0 victory over Boardman in a 2019 Solon Division I district semifinal.

A year ago, the Hudson softball program was preparing to enter the 2020 season with high expectations.

The Explorers posted a 20-4 record in 2019, were the defending Suburban League National Division Co-Champs, and had two Division I college pitchers on their roster in Maddie Roukey and Olivia Stefanoni.

Of course, the Explorers never got a chance to show off that potential as the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We're all in the same boat,” coach Jeff Kurtz said. “If it was something that was just affecting a team here or there, or a school here or there it might be different. But obviously, everybody involved in athletics has been affected by it.

“But the kids are pretty resilient. It certainly affected them I think more mentally than physically. But they've responded very well, and I think the excitement level has been pretty high. They realize we're still on a slippery slope, we still have to take care of each other and make sure we're staying healthy.”

Kurtz, in his 13th year overall with the program and his fifth year as head coach, said that while his group has been resilient, the program’s high expectations have been resilient as well.

While the Explorers graduated Stefanoni, who is pitching at the University of Akron, as well as outfielder Macy Peck and second baseman Sadie Mrakuzic, they still return Roukey, a two-time captain and the 2019 Suburban League National Division Pitcher of the Year.

Roukey, who will continue her softball career at Bucknell University and is one of six returning starters, also has first team All-Suburban League and second team All-District nods to her name.

“She's obviously the cornerstone of a program,” Kurtz said. “She missed her whole junior season, had a really good summer travel season. She is a leader and kind of the heart and soul of this group. From that perspective, I think she understands and gets it because she lost her junior season.”

In addition to Roukey, Hudson also returns Katie Carrillo, a three-year letter winner and catcher who also plays shortstop and third base. The strong defensive catcher also brings power to the plate and earned first team All-Suburban League accolades in 2019.

Laurel Gomersal, another three-year letter winner and captain, returns as the team’s centerfielder and will bat leadoff. She made the All-Suburban League second team two years ago.

Left fielder Paige Albrecht returns after leading the team in outfield assists in left field as a freshman two years ago. She will likely make the switch to shortstop this season.

Ava Butina will also be making a move from shortstop to second base. Both Butina and Albrecht earned honorable mention All-Suburban League accolades as freshmen.

Other key returners for Hudson include Hannah McCray, who will start at first base this year after playing right field as a freshman; and junior Aubrey Hill, who is also battling for the starting third base spot, but can play first base and provides depth at catcher.

Junior Julia Noble is a newcomer who is also in the mix for the third base spot.

Senior Juliette Lamb provides leadership and is competing for a starting spot in the outfield, while senior Erin Malaska will likely see time in the outfield, on the mound and at second base.

Freshman Kaia Mack is making a case to be the team’s leadoff hitter, according to Kurtz, and could also see time at outfield and second base.

Sophomores  Ava Klespies, Nora Howard, Stevie Carrillo, and freshman Kylee Koelsch will be junior varsity starters who will also dress varsity as needed. 

Even though the 2020 season was canceled, Kurtz said most of his players still had the opportunity to play normal travel seasons; however, given the events of last year, he says overall there is a new appreciation for the game from his group.

“Especially from my seniors,” he said. “I think for the kids that would like to play at the next level, I think there's probably more of a sense of urgency or an understanding that we have to make the best of every moment because that's going to impact what we want to do down the road.

“There's an increased appreciation like we've got a second lease on life here, we've got a chance to play, let's make the best of it."