Wauconda looms large vs. Vernon Hills
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Wauconda's small guys don't necessarily play small ball.
Take Wednesday, when the Bulldogs muscled up with four extra-base hits against Illinois State-bound lefty Tyler Feece and pounded five, in total, en route to a 5-2 win that kept the visitors perfect in the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division.
Wauconda (6-3, 4-0) has a dozen players who are shorter than 6 feet.
"We're very undersized," Bulldogs senior second baseman/leadoff hitter Jeff Lindberg, who's 5-7, said with a smile.
"We're a fundamental team," said starting and winning pitcher Brandon Gibis, who stands 5-10. "We really don't have those big power hitters, but we have speed and fundamentals. Speed kills."
Sharply hit balls can be daggers to opponents, too.
Wauconda got its "small ball" attack going against Vernon Hills (6-10, 3-1) in the fourth after the veteran Feece pitched 3 no-hit innings.
"We knew he was probably their ace, and we knew it was going to be a good pitchers duel," Lindberg said. "We had to be real aggressive coming out. We started picking up that he would not throw back-to-back curveballs."
Gibis (3-for-4) belted a double to deep center field leading off the top of the fourth and scored on an error to pull Wauconda even at 1-1. Then in the fifth, after Feece struck out the first batter of the inning, Lindberg doubled to left. Gibis singled to put runners on the corner, and then 5-9 Kyle Block delivered the game's big blow — a line-drive that just eluded a diving Pat Crowley in center field. Bock hustled to third with a 2-run triple, and 5-11 Luke Kenny made it four straight hits with a single, capping a 3-run frame.
"It's always great competition against them," Gibis said. "We came out a little flat, but after that third inning, after my hit (in the fourth) and then Jeff got on (in the fifth), we finally started seeing the ball better and hitting the ball."
Wauconda's 5-7 Bruce Pearl nearly jacked a pitch over the left-field fence in the sixth, settling for a double.
Feece was done after 6 innings. He trailed 4-2, having struck out seven and walked one.
"I don't think he had his best stuff," Vernon Hills coach Jay Czarnecki said. "Tyler was cruising there for a while, and then he started to miss up a little bit. Once a pitcher starts missing his locations, it's easier for an umpire not to give him those close calls."
Wauconda finished with 11 hits, nine off Feece.
"Last year he shut us down, and I thought we were a very good hitting team," Wauconda coach Bill Sliker said. "We just put the ball in play. Even when we made outs, we were hitting it on the nose right at somebody. We had good at-bats against a quality pitcher. I take my hat off to the boys."
Gibis (3-0) allowed just 4 hits, including a pair on the infield. Vernon Hills leadoff hitter Jordan Freibrun (2-for-4) lined an RBI single to right in the third for the game's first run.
"He moves the ball around, and he's got pretty good velocity," Sliker said of Gibis, a three-year varsity player.
Gibis struck out five and walked a pair on a brisk day with the wind blowing out toward left field.
"I felt good," Gibis said. "I threw a lot of pitches today, but I just go out there and compete, mix it up a little bit, try to keep them off balance and just keep throwing. The defense was strong behind me."
Wauconda got a 2-for-3 effort from 5-7 Ryan Geary, who knocked in the final run, while 5-10 Nate Sarich smoked a seventh-inning double.
Czarnecki credited Gibis, who had few balls hit hard against him.
"I think we had a pretty good approach," Czarnecki said. "Gibis is a good pitcher. He's a kid that really gave us fits last year. We really didn't sting the ball."
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