For Wilde Lake, the wait was worth it. It had been over two years since the Wildecat softball program had won a game against a Howard County opponent, but on Tuesday afternoon — on senior day — the team not only won but did so in convincing fashion.
Brittany Kuntz, one of two Wilde Lake seniors, went 3-for-4 with a triple, a home run and 5 RBIs to lead an offensive explosion that set the stage for a 16-9 victory over Oakland Mills.
“It was like I just had a feeling that today was going to be the day,” Wilde Lake coach Tee Dronenburg said. “I woke up today at 6 a.m. and I’ve literally been pacing everywhere … all around the school, everywhere. The cards just felt right that it was beautiful weather, senior day, playing Oakland Mills … it all just felt like it was coming together for the perfect moment.
“Here at the end of the season, after the bumps we’ve had, for it to sort of come to a close on such a sweet note is an amazing thing.”
Back in March when the two teams had squared off to open the season, Oakland Mills had cruised to a 20-5 victory. The return match-up was Wilde Lake’s chance to show how much the team has improved.
“We’ve definitely grown as a team, gotten close and become a family. We’re so much better than the beginning of the season,” said Kuntz, who is one of the few current team members who was on varsity for the program's last county win over Long Reach on April 24, 2012.
Oakland Mills struck first with a run in the top of the first inning, as Tekelle Evans drew a leadoff walk and eventually came around to score. But it could have been much worse for the Wildecats, as the Scorpions had loaded the bases with just one out.
But Wilde Lake pitcher Sydney McNamara, as she did all afternoon, buckled down to avoid further damage with a strikeout and a forced groundout to end the inning.
Then in the bottom of the opening frame, Wilde Lake stayed patient enough to draw five walks around a big hit by Marissa Sciabarra to score four runs and grab the lead.
“This season, we played almost all our games from behind after the first inning. So they knew coming off after the top of the first inning today, ‘hey that was only one run … we are in this game,’ ” Dronenburg said. “So to come out right after that and score four runs ourselves, that just set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Wilde Lake’s bats indeed stayed hot. After neither team scored in the second inning, the Wildecats added four more runs in the third. Kuntz did the brunt of the damage by delivering a triple with the bases loaded. Rachel Rabinowitz then followed with an RBI single to drive her in.
Then, just one inning later — following three runs by Oakland Mills in the top of the frame — Kuntz was at it again. This time, with Erin Riggin on base, she drilled a ball over the left fielder for a home run that increased the lead back to six, 10-4.
“I was definitely able to see the ball better today, but also I think we’ve had so many swings and seen so much that it was like it all just kind of came together,” Kuntz said. “I just waited on the ball, made sure I didn’t swing too soon, and it all paid off.”
But even with the big deficit, Oakland Mills never stopped fighting to stay in it. The Scorpions got two more runs in the fifth courtesy of a 2-RBI single from Heidi Larsen and another two in the sixth courtesy of four walks in the inning.
Every time Wilde Lake looked poised to run away, Oakland Mills answered to hang around.
“That was our big thing as coaches and we must have said every single inning when they came in from the field, that the game wasn’t over. When you are going for that first win, no lead is ever big enough,” Dronenburg said. “We just kept saying ‘it’s not over, it’s not over … stay in this.’ And I think the team, especially the seniors, embraced that.”
With the Wilde Lake lead at 12-8 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Wildecats put together one last surge. A combination of walks and wild pitches got things going and then huge RBIs from Faith Leslie and McNamara helped bring everyone in for what turned out to be another four-run inning and a 16-8 lead.
In the seventh, Oakland Mills managed just one run before McNamara delivered one final strike out to seal the victory.
The final result was that Wilde Lake finally got itself a tangible reward for all the work it's put in the last few months.
“I mean we have worked so hard and we’ve had games where we have come so close and lost it from errors, but this one everything just came together,” Kuntz said. “All day we felt like this was it. Both myself and Marissa, the captains, we just said we were going to do whatever we had to do to find a way to win this game … and we did.”
Wilde Lake 16, Oakland Mills 9
123 456 7 R-H-E
OM 100 322 1 9-10-1
WL 404 224 x 16-9-2
Mt. Hebron 3, Atholton 1
In a pitcher’s duel, the Vikings ended up spoiling senior day for the Raiders.
Maddie Bennett gave up one run over seven innings to record the victory for Mt. Hebron, as she struck out five, walked one and gave up six hits. Evvie Buehlman, Rachel Cadigan and Stephanie Bluhm each had two hits to lead the Vikings’ offense.
Gina D’Asto had scored on an RBI hit from Maya Schwartz (1-3, double) in the top of the first for Atholton. But Mt. Hebron answered right back with Rachel Cadigan scoring on a passed ball in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game.
Then in the second inning, Rylee Kinsella and Bluhm each singled to start things up again. Evvie Buehlman drove in Kinsella with a double and then Cadigan followed with a RBI single.
Cadigan, Kinsella and Bluhm all made big defensive plays for the Vikings.
Senior pitcher Alex Herschman struck out five batters in the losing effort for Atholton. Miranda Thompson, Kaya Roberts and Amanda Petersen joined Schwartz and D’Asto as the hit producers for the Raiders.
123 456 7 R-H-E
A 100 000 0 1-6-0
MH 120 000 x 3-8-0
River Hill 18, Marriotts Ridge 8
The Hawks scored six runs in the first inning to set the tone for what was an impressive offensive display. River Hill scored at least one run in each of the five innings.
The strong start in the opening frame included four hits and three walks to help produce the six runs.
Kallan Dirmeyer had a big day offensively, going 3-4 with a double, home run, walk and 4 RBI. Kinsey Johnson (3-4) and Kristy Selby (3-5, double and 2 runs) also excelled for the Hawks.
Marriotts Ridge smacked 12 hits, including a double by Makenzie Hockensmith, in the loss.
123 45 R-H-E
RH 612 27 18-17-3
MR 001 52 8-12-3
Old Mill 13, Hammond 12
In an out-of-county contest, the Golden Bears lost a slugfest. Emily Speierman struck out 13 batters for Hammond at pitcher.
Speierman (2-3, two doubles), Kelly Smith (3-5, 3 RBI), Keyuana Griffin (2-4, double, 3 RBI), Emily Dowdall (3-4, 3 singles, RBI) and Becky Straub (2-3, double, RBI) all had standout offensive days in the losing effort.
123 456 7 R-H-E
Ha 251 040 0 12-14-2
OM 550 102 x 13-6-3