Wauconda overcomes early deficit to beat host Grayslake Central in regional final
Wauconda's softball team wore large sunflowers in their hair to match their purple and gold uniforms Saturday morning. And the sun shined brightly upon the Bulldogs who beat host Grayslake Central 12-2 for the regional championship.
The No. 8 seed Rams stunned No. 2 Wauconda (23-7) when freshman Dani Eckenstahler hit a 2-run homer off winning pitcher Rachel Peat in the first inning for a quick lead.
The power-hitting Bulldogs were not phased, responding in their half of the first with a pair 2-run homers off Grayslake Central's Annie Wolff. Wauconda later added two more homers in earning the six-inning victory.
Wauconda plays Cary-Grove at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Lakes Sectional semifinals.
Lia Taglia reached base on an error to start Wauconda's first inning rally before teammate Bryn Lucht's home run to center field tied the score.
Then catcher Calli Janik reached base on a two-out double before Savannah Powers (4-for-4, 3 runs) gave the Bulldogs the lead for keeps with a 2-run homer to left-center.
"Wauconda is a great team, they got the No. 2 seed for a reason, and (coach) Tim (Orisek) has done an excellent job since he took over the program," said Grayslake Central coach Jason Schaal, whose team closed out the season 10-21-1.
"I'm proud of our kids, we never put our heads down and our two seniors (Rachel Smigielski and Alex McGowan) left their mark on Grayslake Central softball."
Unlike the close 1-0 and 3-0 victories the Bulldogs posted over Grayslake Central in the regular season, Wauconda's offense exploded Saturday as No. 9-hitter Alyssa Vodicka tripled and scored on Lily Jurczyk's RBI single in the bottom of the second. Jurczyk would score on an error for a 6-2 lead.
Vodicka led off the fourth with a double before scoring on an RBI single by Lucht for a 7-2 lead. Then Taylor Koehler's 2-run homer to center boosted the lead to 9-2.
"These girls are resilient. Credit to them they came out and threw the first punch, and we made the adjustments we needed to make and we continued to attack," said Orisek, after his squad's second four-homer game of the season.
"We've got hitters that take good swings, and it's nice having that power in the lineup. One swing can change the entire complexion of the game."
Powers singled and scored on Haley Baldwin's 2-run homer to center for an 11-2 lead after five innings. Wauconda's Reese Pozen doubled home Powers off reliever Halia Boucher to set off the Bulldogs' walk-off win.
"I think we did a really good job sitting back and waiting for the ball and being aggressive at the plate," said Powers. "The key is just being energetic, staying aggressive at the plate and keep grinding."