In her first at-bat as Wauconda's new cleanup hitter, Kayla Wedl took the first pitch she saw off the earhole of her helmet.
Yeah, she heard it. She never flinched, however.
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"She didn't even shake her head," Bulldogs coach Tim Rennels said.
"I just tossed the bat," Wedl said with a shrug.
By game's end, after Wedl was done hacking in the batter's box, Antioch players were shaking their heads. Wedl smashed 2 long home runs, while going the distance in the circle, as Wauconda pounded Antioch 11-3 in a Class 3A sectional semifinal at Ridgewood on Tuesday.
Lauren Nee also hit a pair of homers to help top-seeded Wauconda (28-8) advance to Saturday's 11 a.m. final against the winner of today's game between No. 3 Lakes and No. 2 Grayslake Central.
Antioch, which suffered 8-5 and 9-5 losses to Wauconda during North Suburban Prairie Division action, finished 18-17, despite only two seniors and three freshmen in its starting lineup.
"I felt like the third time we had to stick it to them and make them be afraid for us next year," said Nee, a senior who plans to play basketball and maybe softball at Elmhurst College.
The 4 home runs hiked the Bulldogs' season total to a school-record 25.
"They were on our pitchers," said Antioch coach Anthony Rocco, who returned to Ridgewood, where he was the head coach for two years. "They did a great job of reading."
Talk about Rennels' new batting order paying immediate dividends. He dropped Wedl down from leadoff to cleanup, moved Paige Motley up two spots from the No. 4 spot and made Taylor McCarthy his leadoff hitter.
Nee stayed in the third slot in the order.
"Kayla's been struggling a little bit in the (No.) 1 spot," Rennels said. "She's not the one necessarily to get up there and take walks for us. She wasn't as at ease, and her numbers showed it."
With the game scoreless heading into the bottom of the third, Motley led off the Wauconda third with a single. Nee then homered over the snow fence in right field for a 2-run shot. Wedl's long blast to left field made it back-to-back dingers.
Then in the fourth, after McCarthy drew a two-out walk and Motley singled again, Nee cleared the bases with a 3-run homer to center field, knocking Sequoits freshman starting pitcher Hannah Cook out of the game. It was the first multihomer game for the 5-foot-1½ Nee (3-for-4, 5 RBI), who doubled her home-run total to four (five in her career).
"First multihomer season," Rennels said, smiling.
With her team up 7-2, Wedl hit her second solo homer of the game with one out in the sixth -- a deep drive to center field. She finished 3-for-3, with the 2 homers giving her nine on the season.
All the runs were way more than she needed. The sophomore righty scattered 6 hits, including a double to freshman Jill Foote and an RBI single to Jessica Pedersen. Wedl struck out seven, issued 2 walks (both to Sage Keyes) and allowed 2 earned runs.
"Once we get up on the board, I'm fine," Wedl said. "It makes the game easier."
Motley finished 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored, while freshman Alexandra Steffens was 2-for-4 with a double. Sarah Ricci added a 2-run triple for Wauconda. McCarthy and Jena Heck each contributed run-scoring singles.
"I thought we swung the bat real well," Rennels said. "We attacked the zone. Against Resurrection (a 1-0 win in the regional final), we were helping their cause. Today, the girls were disciplined and they made (Antioch's pitchers) come in the zone."
Antioch loses two starters in Keyes and second baseman Mackenzie Thomas. Rocco pitched three freshmen -- Cook, Annie Wagner and Stephanie Bonaguidi -- during the season. Rocco said juniors Hannah Skoog and Jessica Pedersen and freshmen Foote and Ashley Stephens all hit over .400.
"It's real promising for us in the future," Rocco said. "We talked to them and said, 'You know how this feels right now for those seniors. It should be driving you.' "