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updated: 5/30/2013 11:06 PM

Wauconda thunders past Richmond-Burton

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  • Wauconda's Joe Lovelle is congratulated by teammates after scoring the first run in Class 3A sectional semifinal play Thursday against Richmond-Burton at Grayslake Central. Wauconda won 9-1.

       Wauconda's Joe Lovelle is congratulated by teammates after scoring the first run in Class 3A sectional semifinal play Thursday against Richmond-Burton at Grayslake Central. Wauconda won 9-1.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Wauconda's Austin Swenson gets a hit in the first inning of Class 3A sectional semifinal play Thursday against Richmond-Burton at Grayslake Central.

       Wauconda's Austin Swenson gets a hit in the first inning of Class 3A sectional semifinal play Thursday against Richmond-Burton at Grayslake Central.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Wauconda pitcher Brandon Gibis strikes out a batter in the first inning of Class 3A sectional semifinal play Thursday against Richmond-Burton at Grayslake Central.

       Wauconda pitcher Brandon Gibis strikes out a batter in the first inning of Class 3A sectional semifinal play Thursday against Richmond-Burton at Grayslake Central.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Wauconda Runner Jeff Lindberg is tagged out at home by Richmond-Burton catcher Matt Malecki in the first inning of Class 3A sectional semifinal play Thursday at Grayslake Central.

       Wauconda Runner Jeff Lindberg is tagged out at home by Richmond-Burton catcher Matt Malecki in the first inning of Class 3A sectional semifinal play Thursday at Grayslake Central.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

In the grand scheme of things, an hour delay for a lightning sighting was no big deal.

After all, the Wauconda baseball team had already been waiting and waiting and waiting for years, if not decades, for the chance to play in a sectional championship game.

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So the Bulldogs weren't thrown off by having to sit inside Grayslake Central High School on Thursday afternoon for what seemed like, in comparison, a blink of an eye, to wait out some bad weather.

In fact, the extra time only seemed to sharpen the Bulldogs' focus even more.

Wauconda jumped all over Richmond-Burton in the semifinals of the Grayslake Central Class 3A sectional. The Bulldogs went from sitting to hitting, and hitting a lot. They scored 4 runs on 6 hits over the first two innings alone and rolled up 14 hits overall en route to a 9-1 victory.

Wauconda, which improves to 20-7, will now face host Grayslake Central in Saturday's 11 a.m. sectional title game. The winner will advance to the North Central College supersectional on Monday.

"For us to be able to hit like that right off the bat was a huge factor in the game," said Wauconda left fielder Austin Piekarski, who got a hit and scored a run in a 2-run second inning, and finished with 2 hits, including a 2-RBI double in the fifth. "It was about focus and (the lightning delay) didn't matter to us.

"We haven't gotten to this point in so long, 20 years, maybe longer, no one knows. This is just huge to us and we weren't going to lose our focus."

Wauconda coach Bill Sliker is in his 11th season at Wauconda and has never been to a sectional championship game, so the void has been at least that long.

The Bulldogs have had some success in recent years in the North Suburban Conference, winning two of the last three Prairie Division titles, but they've had trouble making extended runs in the playoffs. Until now, that is.

"To have never been here before…this feels great," Sliker said with a chuckle. "When you're in the big games, that means a lot. It's fun. It's fun for us (coaches), it's fun for the kids. It's just great."

Wauconda's hitters weren't the only ones having fun.

Starting pitcher Brandon Gibis had a great time on the mound. He had a no-hitter going through 3 innings before Richmond-Burton strung together 2 hits in the fourth inning.

But those were the only 2 hits the Rockets would get the entire game. Gibis, who went the distance, rolled up 8 strikeouts and allowed only 2 walks in a dominating performance.

"Gibis really kept us off-balance," said Richmond-Burton senior Ryne Blanton, who started at shortstop but took over at pitcher after Wauconda's big first inning, which included 2 runs on 4 hits. "We tried to scratch out what we could. But even when we had a little something going, he just shut us right down."

Gibis, a three-year varsity starter, is the only player to start full-time on both of Wauconda's division title teams. He is now 7-1 on the season as the Bulldogs' ace.

"We came out focused and ready to go," Gibis said. "The delay didn't bother me. I just had the same approach as any game. I did my stretching, I was trying to get my mental focus like I do for any game. I just probably went through all of it three times instead of just once.

"It helped a ton (to get an early lead). I can come out and be aggressive and go after the hitters when that happens. Our hitters, 1 through 9, came up and hit today and that takes a ton of pressure off me."

Richmond-Burton starting pitcher Mike Kaska was at the other end of the spectrum. But he made up for his rough, pressure-packed first inning by driving in his team's only run in the fourth inning. That cut Wauconda's lead to 4-1.

But the Bulldogs answered right back with two more runs in the fifth inning, powered by Piekarski's big double.

With back-to-back doubles in the seventh by Jeff Lindberg and Gibis (who was 3-for-5 on the day), Wauconda added three more runs on four more hits.

"Hats off to Wauconda. They can swing it pretty well and they swung it today," said Richmond-Burton coach Mike Giese, whose team closes out the season with a 16-14 record. "We were just overmatched today. We were way overmatched."

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