Parker Johnston bravely tried to put down a suicide squeeze, even though Jeremy Wagner's fastball was high and tight, and his courage wasn't rewarded.
Johnston fouled the pitch off his eye and had to leave the game.
His Richmond-Burton baseball teammates picked him up, however. And by game's end, Wauconda's players weren't feeling so well either.
Richmond-Burton wiped out a 3-0 deficit to stun Wauconda 8-3 in the teams' Class 3A regional semifinal at Marian Central in Woodstock on Thursday.
Richmond-Burton, which dropped a pair of close decisions to Wauconda (17-17) during the regular season, improved to 18-17 and will try to avenge an extra-inning loss to Marian Central when it plays the regional host in Saturday's 10 a.m. championship game.
"We grew up today as a program," R-B coach Mike Giese said. "We had a little bit of a bump in the road the last year and a half and battled through a few things, and this year was better. But it just seemed like every time we played a team that was a little better than us, we couldn't quite get over that hump, especially when we got down a little bit.
"To go down 3-0 and to come back and finally just play a seven-inning game was a really, really big deal for our guys."
Wauconda's inability to catch seemingly routine pop-ups ultimately led to the Bulldogs' demise, with Wagner unable to recover from the mistakes.
The junior right-hander, who aided his own cause with a sacrifice fly during a 3-run fourth, retired the first two batters he faced in the fifth. But a catchable pop fly wasn't caught, extending the inning for Travis Jewell, whose well-struck flyball turned around the right fielder and resulted in an RBI triple, pulling the Rockets within 3-1.
Then in the R-B sixth, C.J. Daniels led off by skying a popup, which dropped untouched.
"Seriously, you got to catch a popup," Wauconda coach Bill Sliker said. "At the varsity level, you got to take the outs when you can get them, and we didn't really do that today.
"I felt like we were in control of the game until then. Wagner was pitching pretty well, and we did enough offense. But a popup like that has got to be caught."
Instead, Richmond-Burton took full advantage.
Wagner got a strikeout for the first out, but Kenneth Dziulkala singled. Freshman Matt Malecki, who leads the Rockets in batting average and hits, then tied it with a 2-run triple.
Johnston couldn't squeeze home Malecki, but his replacement, Nate Coutteau, reached when Wagner's breaking ball hit him.
Bryan Leslie then broke the tie by lining a 2-run double into the gap, and Tyler Volling doubled home Leslie. Jewell's RBI single made it three straight hits and six in the inning, ending Wagner's day.
"My pitch count was over 100 so I was losing a little bit," Wagner said. "But the frustration got to me."
Wauconda didn't have a hit after its big fourth inning, which included Erik Maki's RBI triple that scored Jeff Jackson (double) and Tim Matesi's solo homer.
Rockets sophomore starter Ray Wojciechowski struck out nine in 6 innings, and reliever Volling fanned two more in the seventh. Four of Wauconda's 6 hits were for extra bases, with a Wagner double included.
"It was very frustrating," Wagner said of the loss. "I guess some of us thought (the win) was going to be handed to us."
"They felt that they could win," Sliker said of the Rockets. "Credit to them."