HOWARD COUNTY, MD — The No. 16 seeded UMBC men's basketball team inspired many when it played the role of David and slayed Goliath, No. 1 seed Virginia, in a historic upset the opening round of the NCAA basketball tournament on March 16. Consider the Wilde Lake softball team as one.
"We've preached it all season: any given team can beat any given team on any given day if you play good softball," said Wildecats coach Tee Dronenburg. "So they always say, 'Hey, UMBC did it!' So if they can do it, we can do it."
On Monday, the senior class made its own history on Senior Day. Behind a stellar pitching performance by Kasey Baird and two big innings offensively, Wilde Lake beat visiting Atholton, 12-5, for its third victory of the year. It's the first time any of the current seniors have defeated a team not named Oakland Mills or Annapolis.
"It couldn't be any sweeter. There were a lot of emotions today — all of us cried some before the game because it's just such a special group of seniors," Dronenburg said. "They've done awesome things with softball and everything at the Lake. For them to go out on top at home, I couldn't be happier."
Baird allowed 13 hits in seven innings of work but limited Raiders' offense in the clutch. She allowed three runs on four hits in the top of the first inning but she let in just two more runs the rest of the way. She didn't walk any batters, struck out four and stranded 11, and at the plate she had an RBI in the first and second innings.
"We've had some ups and downs this season, letting some games get out of hand, but we really stuck in there the whole entire game," Baird said.
Said Dronenburg: "Kasey works so hard every offseason and her goal coming into the year was to have more strikeouts than walks, and she's doing way better than that. She's just done an awesome job and has put the team on her shoulders. ... For her to get this is really awesome."
Fittingly, it was an unsung senior who stepped up to lead the offense. Senior left fielder Hanna Van Osdel earned the start on Senior Day and finished with three RBIs, two of which came on a single up the middle in the bottom of the first. Dronenburg said it was "the day of her career."
Van Osdel was also one of eight Wildecats to score at least one run on the day, as they capitalized on Atholton's inability to find the strike zone. They scored two runs on bases-loaded walks in their six-run first inning and then three more in their five-run third inning. In total, they drew 14 walks and had one hit batsman.
It's the fourth straight game Wilde Lake (3-10 Howard County, 3-10 overall) has scored double-digit runs. After scoring just 36 runs in their first 10 games, the Wildecats have scored 61 in their last four.
"We've said it all season, that this team can hit and just weren't doing it at the beginning of the season, but it was just a matter of time," Dronenburg said. "They're hitters and they're going to hit eventually. ... We just preach patience. If they're going to give you something to hit, then you're not going to swing and we'll take the base. It really paid off today."
Atholton (2-12, 2-13), meanwhile, beat Wilde Lake, 12-2, on April 6 for its first win of the year and then beat Oakland Mills three days later. Since then, the Raiders have been unable to string together enough offense, and Monday they suffered their 10th straight defeat. The Raiders are averaging 2.5 runs per game during that stretch.
"Wilde Lake came out hot and ready to go. They wanted this and they showed that. They had two big innings that we weren't able to get the third outs and that was the difference," Atholton coach Allyson O'Neill said. "It was a tough one."
O'Neill does, however, feel that her team is close to a breakthrough. They had eight more hits than Wilde Lake and Patty Drumheller (3-5, 2 R) and Juliet Nierle (2-4, 3 RBI) have been consistent offensive threats all season.
"I think we're just right there offensively and defensively," she said. "We can make contact and Patty is hitting almost .500 and Juliet is hitting really well. We just have to string them together."