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Hudson softball club to be led by pitching

By FRANK ACETO Associate Sports Editor Published: March 26, 2017 12:00 AM
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In recent years, the Hudson softball team has seen many coaches come and go since it won its only state title in 2007.

Fortunately, there has been one person who has been around the Lady Explorers for most of the way during what seemed like a never-ending coaching carousel.

His name is Jeff Kurtz.

Since he joined the Hudson softball program back in 2007, Kurtz has spent all but two years as a coach for the Lady Explorers.

Now, Kurtz is officially at the controls for the Hudson softball team.

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Kurtz was named the team's head coach during the off-season after Alyssa Brown decided to resign after two years with the team.

Although he is a head coach at Hudson for the first time, Kurtz has certainly been around the block.

He was Hudson Middle School's athletic director and Hudson High School's assistant athletic director from 2003 to 2011 and he coached softball at Hiram College during the 1990s.

Kurtz also was an assistant coach at the University of Akron during the 1990s and he recently spent one year as an assistant coach with the Lady Explorers field hockey team.

Wait, there's more.

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He spent one year apiece as the athletic director at Orange High School in Pepper Pike and as an assistant coach for the Akron Springfield softball team.

Kurtz also spent three years as Ravenna High School's athletic director during the early 2000s.

While Kurtz has been the jack of all trades when it comes to sports, his passion has always been softball.

"I'm very excited," he said. "I worked for [former Hudson head coaches] Amy Densevich, Frank Caraballo, Jeff Brown, Beth Cinadr and Alyssa Brown. I love being on the field."

Kurtz walks into a pretty decent situation.

Hudson finished 16-9 in 2016 after falling to eventual state champion Walsh Jesuit 2-1 in a Division I district semifinal game. The Lady Explorers had a 10-game winning streak during the season and finished 8-6 in the Suburban League National Conference. Wadsworth won the National Conference title in 2016.

Unfortunately for Kurtz, some of the familiar names he saw develop and mature are no longer on the team.

Graduating players include right-handed pitcher/outfielder Nikki Turner, who is now pitching at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, first baseman Ally Tucciarelli, who is playing at Gannon University in Erie, Pa., shortstop Sydney Coleman, third baseman and catcher Eden Janesch, left fielder Alyssa Brest, right fielder Megan Urbanic and utility player Makayla Wheatley.

That's not all.

Morgan Cox, the team's starting second baseman in 2016, moved to Columbus and center fielder/leadoff batter Maddie Sullivan decided not to play.

Fortunately, Hudson has some players back from last year.

Leading the way is senior right-handed pitcher and third baseman Sara Gedeon, a first-team All-National Conference player who plans to continue her academic and softball careers at Dominican College in Orangeburg, N.Y.

Gedeon led the team is home runs (5), doubles (8) and runs batted in (19).

Although Turner is gone, Kurtz has confidence in junior right-handed pitcher Mariah Duncan and freshman left-handed pitcher Olivia Stefanoni, who also is expected to see time at first base.

"Our strength is going to be our pitching with Sara coming back," Kurtz said. "Mariah pitched every inning of JV [junior varsity] ball and Olivia is a tall left-hander."

Another key returning player is sophomore catcher Cami Madar, who had a pair of home runs to go with 6 doubles and 14 RBIs last spring.

"Cami is a good athlete," Kurtz said. "She is one of the top catchers in the area. She's also pretty solid at third base. I threw her in at shortstop during one of our scrimmages. She has a cannon for an arm."

The Lady Explorers' other returning player is Martha Masich, who is expected to see time at second base and in the outfield after playing third base last year.

The rest of the team features several first-year varsity players.

They are seniors Gillian Swan, who Kurtz said could be the team's starting center fielder to go along with some time at first base, Lydia Ridell (infield and outfield) and Brianna Bellanco (second base and outfield); juniors Kayla Tucciarelli (shortstop and second base) and Taylor Brest (infield); and freshman Sadie Mrakuzic (shortstop and second base).

"Sadie is one of those kids who is willing to play anywhere," Kurtz said.

Kurtz's varsity assistant is Amanda Brunner and the JV head coach is Erin Treu. The JV assistant coach is Mike Smith.

"Amanda previously coached volleyball and softball in Maryland," Kurtz said. "Mike has run the Hudson Diamond programs. I'm pretty excited about my staff."

Since Hudson has just 11 players on its varsity roster, staying healthy will be crucial to the team's success.

"Everybody is going to play multiple positions," Kurtz said. "Since our numbers are down, we may have to move people around to places they might not be familiar with."

The Lady Explorers are scheduled to make their 2017 debut against Crestwood March 28 at home. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.

Hudson is scheduled to play in Cincinnati against Mason March 30 and Lebanon March 31. Both contests are set to begin at 5 p.m.

"I'm always excited when softball season rolls around," Kurtz said. "It's the best time of the day."

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