It took a few innings in each game to get the bats going but once that happened, the Wauconda softball team showed Monday it's ready to pick up where it left off last June.
The Bulldogs, who lost to Sterling in a Class 3A supersectional at Judson University in Elgin last season, had big innings late in each game and used the stellar right arm of sophomore Kayla Wedl to do the rest in sweeping a season-opening doubleheader from Hampshire, 10-0 and 11-1, at The Dome at The Ballpark in Rosemont.
"The final scores today don't indicate how well Hampshire played," said Wauconda coach Tim Rennels. "They had me worried in both games but in each game they tired a little defensively and our offense came around."
In Game 1 Wedl was dominant. She struck out 16 and issued one harmless walk in the seventh inning. Hampshire managed just 4 singles off the right-hander, who hit her spots like it was late May and not March, and didn't let the first outing of the season on turf and not grass be a deterrent.
"I wanted to make sure I hit my spots today," Wedl said. "I've done a lot of tournaments in domes so I'm used to this. My curve was breaking late and working really well today."
Hampshire junior Haley Widmayer matched Wedl through four innings, allowing the Bulldogs just 2 singles. But she had to pitch out of a jam in the top of the fourth when Wedl singled, stole second and went to third after a walk to sophomore Brooke Sefcik with one out and then a groundout. But Widmayer got a strikeout to end the threat.
Hampshire's defense struggled over the next two innings at the most inopportune times, allowing Wauconda to score 8 unearned runs.
A dropped fly ball in the outfield in the top of the fifth allowed one run to score and opened the door for Wedl to drive in another. In the top of the sixth a one-out infield error led to a big inning for the Bulldogs that culminated with Wedl (3-for-4, 5 RBI) hustling out an inside-the-park grand slam home run.
"That last game last year made us really mad and makes us want to go farther this year," Wedl said. "We're going to need a lot of practice on our defensive scenarios but our offense is good."
Senior Abby Baldocchi, who had 2 hits, added a 2-run single for the Bulldogs in the seventh inning for the final margin.
Widmayer struck out 8 but also walked 7 in suffering the loss.
In Game 2, Wauconda led 2-1 into the sixth inning when Hampshire's defense struggled again. The Bulldogs scored twice in the sixth and then seven times in the seventh.
Senior Lauren Nee led off the game with an inside-the-park home run and went 2-for-4, adding a triple, while sophomore Taylor McCarthy (2-for-5, 3B), Wedl (2-for-5) and freshman Alex Steffens (3-for-4, 3B) also contributed to the Bulldogs' 14-hit attack.
With senior Savannah Mitchell out of town on spring break, Wedl pitched again, and again she allowed just 4 hits. She had 8 strikeouts and no walks.
"Kayla's off and running again," said Rennels. "She handled it well, going both games."
Senior Sara Finn and sophomore Aly Snider each had triples for Hampshire. Becca Hurst took the loss in the circle.
"We played them pretty tight until the fifth inning of each game then we crumbled a little," said Hampshire coach Stacey Stepek. "Their bats kind of lit up. They've got a great lineup 1-9 and (Wedl) did a fantastic job. We were taking good cuts and just coming up shy. We have to cut out the strikeouts and adjust to the pitcher.
"I thought Haley pitched well but we have to play defense. Overall I thought we did some good things against a very good team. I think we've got promise for the future."