Howard County Times

Justyce Richard shuts the door as Wilde Lake softball fends off late River Hill rally in 5-3 victory

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Wilde Lake softball knew Monday’s game against River Hill began a challenging stretch. The Wildecats, an experienced group, were eager to take that challenge head-on.

Wilde Lake took an early lead before fending off River Hill’s seventh inning comeback efforts in a 5-3 victory.


“I think it really makes us more competitive,” Wilde Lake senior Justyce Richard said. “We play better that way, the energy is up. It’s kind of chaotic in a good way and I think everybody likes that. It’s just a really good group of girls who can get together and work together really well thanks to Coach Tee Dronenburg. She does a lot and helps with that.”

The Wildecats (2-0) broke through in the second inning, spark by Senior Nokomis Styers’ one-out double. Lauren Jascewsky added a single and Macey Nichols was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with two outs.


River Hill’s Annie Levine struggled with her command and walked Katherine Berger and Heather McQueeney back-to-back, giving the Wildecats a two-run advantage.

River Hill (1-1) got two runners on in the third. However, Richard got out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts, the first of several tough situations she escaped. Jacewsky added to Wilde Lake’s lead in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double.

Wilde Lake Wildecats pitcher Justyce Richard struck out eight batters in Monday's win over River Hill, and left the tying run on base as she closed the door in the seventh.

The Hawks got on the board in the top of the fourth. Brooke Blakeslee ripped a single through the right side, scoring Levine. Richard quickly recovered, though, striking out Alex Gregory to close the inning.

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River Hill threatened again in the top of the fifth, loading the bases. However, Richard calmly fielded a Mary Maiorana grounder ending the inning.

“The fact that this is the second game of the season and we’re playing one of the top teams in the county, we’re just working on putting the ball in play,” River Hill coach Marni Rosenbaum said. “The fact that we got runners on was a good thing, but once we get them out there, we’ve got to be able to move them over.”

Wilde Lake built separation in the bottom of the fifth, starting with Richard’s double. Styers and Bailey Hudgens walked, loading the bases with one out. In the biggest moment of her first varsity season, Nichols laced a double into the left-center field gap, driving in two for a 5-1 lead.

Wilde Lake head coach Kristina Dronenburg, left, reacts with Heather McQueeney after she tripled in Monday's game against River Hill.

“It was really nice,” Nichols said. “I was really nervous honestly, because I was down 0-2 and more people were coming from practice, so there were more on eyes on me. So, it was a lot of pressure, but I just used it to my advantage and honed in and hit it.”

River Hill generated its best offense in the final inning. Zoe Pachoca started the rally with a leadoff single and later scored on a double from Levine. Lux Sheplee added an RBI single, cutting the deficit to 5-3.


Facing runners on second and third with one out, Richard once again got of her most challenging jam yet. She got Blakeslee to pop out to first, then retired Gregory on three pitches for her eighth and final strikeout, cementing the Wildecats’ win.

“Justyce is a worker. Justyce is a two-, three- or four-workout a day kind of girl,” Dronenburg said. “We said, ‘Oh gosh her pitch count is getting up here,’ but if anybody is ready for the challenge and the work, Justyce is the girl. She just trusts her catcher, her defense, herself to make the big pitch when she needs it and she did it time and time again today.”