Softball: Antioch tops Wauconda for sectional crown
A loud softball game ended quietly Thursday afternoon.
Antioch and host Wauconda -- battling in a Class 3A sectional final in scorching conditions, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning -- had combined for 29 runs and 31 hits when a pitch struck by Wauconda freshman Alyssa Vodicka screamed toward sprinting Antioch freshman Aubrey Ultsch in deep left field.
The Sequoit caught up to the ball in foul territory and allowed her glove to serve as a soft landing spot.
The library-quiet snare ended Antioch's cacophonous 18-11 victory and earned the program's second supersectional berth in school history.
Antioch (32-5) faces Sterling in the Kaneland supersectional on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
"Never a doubt that she'd catch it," said Sequoits sophomore Syerra Gilmore (5-0), who pitched 6⅓ innings of 6-hit relief and yielded only 2 earned runs after Wauconda (21-6) amassed 8 hits in a 7-run first inning.
"Aubrey," she added, "is an aggressive outfielder."
Antioch's bats were downright assertive. Coach Anthony Rocco's crew plated 3 runs in the top of the first inning and tallied 7 in the fourth to take a 12-7 lead.
The visitors didn't let up from there, scoring 3 runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings.
"We're not done!" Rocco shouted to his players in the post-victory confab, not far from the spot of Ultsch's game-ending grab.
Second-seeded Antioch and first-seeded Wauconda tied for the Northern Lake County Conference title. But Wauconda won both Wauconda-Antioch meetings, 11-9 and 9-4.
Antioch's triumph Thursday afternoon reduced those results to distant memories.
"Our team knows it can get to state," Rocco said after his squad's 18-hit attack. "We never give up -- that's been a theme for us all season."
Antioch refused to wilt in the unrelenting heat. It essentially shrugged at its 7-3 deficit after one frame. The Sequoits took control in the fourth, when they sent 11 batters to the plate. A 2-run single by starting pitcher Jacey Schuler (4-for-5, 4 RBI) knotted it at 7, and Ultsch -- the No. 9 hitter in the order -- ripped a 2-run single to center that widened the advantage to 12-7.
Antioch also received productive days from sophomore second baseman Eden Echevarria (3-4, 3B), junior shortstop Gabby Debevec (3-5, 3 RBI, 2B), sophomore third baseman Emily Brecht (2 RBI) and senior center fielder Ashlyn Sundell (2-5, 2 RBI).
Bulldogs sophomore shortstop Lia Taglia paced Wauconda's offense, going 3-for-4 and driving in 4 runs. Her 2-run homer in the bottom of the fifth cut Antioch's lead to 15-11.
Wauconda sophomore center fielder Bryn Lucht (3-for-4) doubled and drove in a run, and the Bulldogs' lone senior, third baseman Julia Fohlmeister (2-for-4), knocked in a pair of runs in her prep finale.
"We just didn't have another good comeback in us," said Bulldogs fourth-year coach Tim Orisek, who watched his team climb out of a 10-1 hole in an 11-10 defeat of Glenbrook South earlier this spring. "This group never quit. It was a tough bunch, so tough.
"My players gave me phenomenal efforts."