Clearly, Wauconda senior Lexie Redmann was the defensive hero of the game when she positively stole a potential double off the bat of Antioch's Kaytee Keefe in the fifth inning of Wednesday's Class 3A sectional semifinal at Grayslake Central.
"I told my mom I was going to make 50 diving catches,'' Redmann said.
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But when this game between NSC Prairie Division rivals went to extra innings, Redmann was still hitless at the plate. And that came as a surprise to Wauconda coach Tim Rennels. That's because he had called an optional hitting practice before the big game.
"And Lexie was the only girl who took me up on it,'' Rennels said. "And she has some great swings in the cages. We both walked off happy."
Since both teams had split a pair of games during the regular season, naturally this game went to the eighth inning knotted up at 2-2.
And then the extra batting practice paid off. Redmann's fifth homer of the season opened up a 4-2 lead. Freshman Brooke Sefcik followed with another longball.
Wauconda (22-12) will play for the sectional title come Saturday at Grayslake Central. The Bulldogs stopped Antioch 5-3 and in the meantime dodged a one-girl wrecking crew named Kaylene Ressler. In order, she singled, homered, singled and homered.
The back-to-back homers from Redmann and Sefcik in the eighth seemingly put this game away. There were two outs on the board when Redmann connected to right-center field.
"I knew this field had short fences,'' Redmann said. "I believed I could hit, and it went right over."
The Wauconda celebration wasn't quite over when Sefcik cracked her homer to almost the same spot.
"I knew I had to lock myself in,'' Sefcik said. "And I knew I had hit that one."
It looked like the pitching battle between Wauconda freshman Kayla Wedl and Antioch senior Katie Phillips might never get underway. As the leadoff hitter, Wedl broke up the no-hitter and shutout on the same pitch as she ripped a homer to center.
Antioch shortstop Jessica Pedersen opened her team's first inning with a long double to right. She scored on the first of Ressler's 4 hits.
And then both pitchers settled down. Wedl had 4 strikeouts entering the third inning, when she surrendered the first of the Ressler's fence-clearing blasts.
Phillips twice allowed hard singles to Sefcik, but each time the freshman was stopped at third base. That plan worked until the visitor's fifth, when junior shortstop Lauren Nee came up with the equalizer. Her one-out double chased home the tying run.
Both pitchers were stubborn in the late innings. Wedl allowed 2 hits in the Antioch fifth but got out of trouble. Phillips was even tougher, retiring seven Bulldogs in a row before an infield error ended that streak.
With that 5-2 lead in hand heading to the home half of the eighth, Wauconda had to face Ressler one more time. Rennels listened to some advice from his staff.
"We wanted to go right at her,'' he joked.
Ressler made it a 5-3 game in a hurry.
"Ressler hammered the ball and Sage (Keyes) was on base all day,'' said Antioch coach Anthony Rocco. "But it was all about execution. Upsets happen."
Rocco knew he's had some strong seasons with these Sequoits. He also knows that the heart of his order -- Keefe, Phillips and Ressler -- all graduate.
"What a special group,'' he said.