By Steve Robinson | September 20, 2020 - 10:16 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Cornbelters, The Normalite

NORMAL – Six runs in the sixth inning of the Kernels Fall League contest on Sept. 18 allowed CornBelters 16U squad to coast to a 10-1 win over 16U Hoots at The Corn Crib, getting week three underway.

After their first two batters struck out, CornBelters 16U took a fast 2-0 first inning lead courtesy of Dalton Kruger being walked and stole second, followed by Conner Landstrum’s single. A single by Aiden Boundy followed helping both runners cross home plate for a fast lead.

The 16U Hoots’ lone run came in the top of the fourth inning with one out starting with a triple by pitcher Clayton Garmon, making it home during an out by James Carlson. That cut CornBelters 16U’s lead to 2-1.

CornBelters 16U added two more runs, increasing their lead to 4-1 in the third inning, as Brady Bengston reached first base on a fielding error and make it to second on a single by Jake Morrill. Both men scored on a triple by Dalton Kruger.

CornBelters 16U’s 4th inning started slow, with Caleb Lehman striking out. With one down, Leif Blair singled and was followed by Connor Kearfott who reached first and was put out trying to advance to second as Blair scored, putting his team up, 5-1.

Drew Logan and Steven Darnell were the next two batters to reach base, Darnell doing it on an error and Bengston doubling clearing the bases, giving CornBelters 16U a 7-1 advantage.

The next batter, Parker Michaels walked and was followed by Morrill who singled. Morrill was followed by Ben Ponce who singled and helped Michaels score to put CornBelters 16U up, 8-1. With two men on, the next batter, Kruger, doubled, sending Morill and Ponce across the plate for the eventual final score.

Yard Goats Beat CornBelters 18U Win Sept. 11 Contest: Week two of Kernels Fall League Baseball action saw local athletes engage in a close game in the first of the two games played at The Corn Crib Friday night while game two ended after coaches mutually agreed to end the game deadlocked at 9-all after seven innings.

A double by Brazelton in the bottom of the fourth helped Jesse Worley from St. Joseph Ogden High home to tie the game, 1-1. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley product Hunter Brewer got credit for scoring the winning run. Brazelton claimed the win, while Alex Willey, a Normal Community West High player, took the loss.

Central Illinois 18U Outlaws, 29ers 18U Sept. 11 Game Ends In 9-9 Tie: In the nightcap game on Sept. 11, two teams with players primarily from outside central Illinois gave fans plenty of action to see, enough that by mutual agreement, both team coaches agreed to end the game after seven innings, with Central Illinois 18U Outlaws and 29ers 18U playing to a 9-9 tie. The majority of the players on the Outlaws roster were high school players from East Peoria area. The majority of 29ers 18U players were from Chicago with one exception – Patrick Mulcahey who was listed as having played high school ball at Bloomington Central Catholic.

Yard Goats Get Past BNBA Hoots, 2-1 In Sept. 4 Opener: The Yard Goats, an 18 and Under team comprised of high school students from Mahomet and Champaign areas defeated BNBA Hoots, 2-1, to open week two of KFL action Friday night. Bloomington High alum Nate Johnson, the Hoots’ leadoff man, singled to start the contest in the first inning.

But that was followed by a pair of quick strikeouts delivered by Yard Goats pitcher Hayden Brazelton, a St. Joseph Ogden High product, shutting down Hoots second baseman and Normal West High’s Mason Buzicky and U-High’s Chase Adams for two of the offense’s three quick outs. A double by Bloomington Central Catholic High’s David Broadbear scored Johnson for the only run in the inning putting the Hoots up, 1-0

CornBelters 18U Win Sept. 4 Opener: CornBelters 18U and Team Game 7 18U on opening night on Friday, Sept. 4 with 18U CornBelters winning, 4-3, thanks to University High’s Evan Kochel’s 4th inning grand slam home run, scoring teammates Adison Worthman (Bloomington High), Eli Hensley (Normal West), and Charlie Vercruysse (U-High). Team Game 7 18U players attempted to mount a 5th inning comeback but weren’t able to overtake their opponents. Players who scored for Team Game 7 18U were Mitchell Murphy (Normal Community), Mac Conklin, and Matthew Davenport (both U-High).

By Steve Robinson | September 12, 2020 - 10:00 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Cornbelters, The Normalite

NORMAL – Week two of Kernels Fall League Baseball action saw local athletes engage in a close game in the first of the two games played at The Corn Crib Friday night while game two ended after coaches mutually agreed to end the game deadlocked at 9-all after seven innings.

Yard Goats Get Past BNBA Hoots, 2-1: The Yard Goats, an 18 and Under team comprised of high school students from Mahomet and Champaign areas defeated BNBA Hoots, 2-1, to open week two of KFL action Friday night. Bloomington High alum Nate Johnson, the Hoots’ leadoff man, singled to start the contest in the first inning. But that was followed by a pair of quick strikeouts delivered by Yard Goats pitcher Hayden Brazelton, a St. Joseph Ogden High product, shutting down Hoots second baseman and Normal West High’s Mason Buzicky and U-High’s Chase Adams for two of the offense’s three quick outs. A double by Bloomington Central Catholic High’s David Broadbear scored Johnson for the only run in the inning putting the Hoots up, 1-0

A double by Brazelton in the bottom of the fourth helped Jesse Worley from St. Joseph Ogden High home to tie the game, 1-1. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley product Hunter Brewer got credit for scoring the winning run. Brazelton claimed the win, while Alex Willey, a Normal Community West High player, took the loss.

Central Illinois 18U Outlaws, 29ers 18U Play To A 9-9 Draw: In the nightcap game, two teams with players primarily from outside central Illinois gave fans plenty of action to see, enough that by mutual agreement, both team coaches agreed to end the game after seven innings, with Central Illinois 18U Outlaws and 29ers 18U playing to a 9-9 tie. The majority of the players on the Outlaws roster were high school players from East Peoria area. The majority of 29ers 18U players were from Chicago with one exception – Patrick Mulcahey who was listed as having played high school ball at Bloomington Central Catholic.

NORMAL — To conclude the inaugural season of a league during a year when fans yearned to hear about something else other than an ongoing national political race and an ongoing pandemic, the end of the game between the CornBelters and the Bobcats, both local teams, seemed just what the fans needed.

Although the CornBelters trailed for the first three innings, they did catch up and managed to earn the league’s very first championship trophy, with bottom of the seventh heroics, 5-4, Sunday at The Corn Crib, before roughly 700 people.

The winning run came in the bottom of the 7th as Alex Steinbach’s walk-off single with two on allowed former Normal West football player Peyton Dillingham to cross home plate, giving the CornBelters a 5-4 win over the Bobcats in the Kernels Collegiate League championship game. When the playoffs began, the CornBelters were the top seed, followed by second seeded Bobcats in the four-team league.

Dillingham, who played quarterback at Normal Community West High School, said for him to walk away with having contributed to helping the team win the league championship was “icing on the cake…icing on the cake. It was the best summer of my life. Great time. It would not make sense to come out without a championship. All we wanted to do was come out and win.” He called this summer “the best summer of my life.”

“This year has given these guys so many question marks and to see them come out here and grind it out…30 games isn’t that much but in the time frame they’ve had to be able to come out and push through and come in every day when some of them are just starting to get hot right now,” explained CornBelters head coach David Garcia, who coaches baseball at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. “For them to finish strong like that, I was really proud of them.”

“We lost first place twice and got it back both times the next day, so it was fun,” Garcia said.

The Bobcats had to play both games scheduled for Sunday because they lost one to the Gems Saturday, explained Bobcats head coach Jake Wegner. Wegner is actually still in college himself although his playing days are behind him, and about to enter his senior year at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

“We got four in the first inning, and Platt settled in and they shut us down,” Wegner said. Platt is CornBelters right hander and Pennsylvania native David Platt.

Game Rundown: The contest started on a four-run first inning by the visiting Bobcats as outfielder Jordan Libman blasted a grand slam home run, putting his team up 4-0. Prior to that, singles by infielder Jackson Chatterton and catcher Keaton Rice, and outfielder Dan Bolt loaded the bases.

A 4th inning double by infielder Austin Simpson scored Steinbach, putting the CornBelters on the scoreboard, 4-1. A bottom of the fifth homer with two on by outfielder Brant Vanaman scored outfielder Lincoln Riley and infielder Kai Moody, both of whom singled.

By Steve Robinson | July 17, 2020 - 6:13 am
Posted in Category: Normal Cornbelters, The Normalite

It would be a safe bet to say that we were all thrown a curve ball courtesy of the pandemic we are currently in the midst of. Among the biggest casualties from it was our various means of escape from what we find ourselves facing when we watch the news: The ability to turn on another station to check out a ball game – any ball game, be it basketball, baseball, even arena football (if it is still around).

We were further deprived of sports when local high school softball and baseball teams had their seasons nixed as a result of the circumstances we are facing. And when May came around, if you were like me, potentially losing the ability to spend some summer nights watching the Normal CornBelters at The Corn Crib looked to be in jeopardy.

But the CornBelters were also throwing fans a curve of their own when they parted ways with the Prospect League after just one season which showcased strictly college players using a shortened season. We were just getting acquainted when team management tossed another curve by creating its own league and used players mainly from the immediate area and vicinity founding the Kernels Collegiate League, or KCL. In the years I have written about sports, I have seen teams exit from one league to the next before and this was one of the quickest.

And normally, during the summer, thanks to the ol’ editor, Mr. Pyne, I got to spend my summer covering games and interviewing local players. I had been looking forward to it starting in May and keeping me busy all summer.

But the pandemic abbreviated KCL’s schedule. So, to make up for that, using the rosters provided by the league, and with their thanks, I will list all of the local players from each team and the high school and college attended. Players who attend or attended local schools will be listed first.

There are only four teams in this league, and primarily being identified by their mascots, no communities mentioned. KCL teams are the CornBelters, Bobcats, Gems, and Hoots. I am presenting the teams in the order they are seen in current KCL standings.

CornBelters: Peyton Dillingham, outfielder, Normal Community West High School, Morehead State University; McCade Brown, pitcher, Normal West, Indiana University; Parker Mathieson, outfielder, University High, Parkland College; Nick Sharp, catcher, Bloomington High School, Odessa (TX) Community College; and Jack Gilmore, pitcher, Bloomington Central Catholic, Heartland Community College.

Gems: Brandon Roth, outfielder, Normal West, Black Hawk College; Billy Mote, infielder, U-High, Southeastern University (Fla.); Jacob Mote, infielder, U-High, Marshall Univ.; Jackson Bronke, pitcher, NCHS, ISU; Garrett Swingler, pitcher, Normal West, IWU; Drew Ziebarth, pitcher, U-High, University of Central Missouri; and Reid Rector, infielder, BHS, Rend Lake College.

Hoots: Austin Collinson, infielder, Normal West, Carl Sandburg College; Brendan Short, pitcher, NCHS, Central College (Iowa); Brendan Tupper, outfielder, U-High, Parkland College; Mason Burns, pitcher, NCHS, ISU; Will Dowell, pitcher, NCHS, Iowa Lakes Community College; C. J. Lewis, pitcher, Normal West, Parkland College; Nathan Hardman, pitcher, U-High, Lincoln Land Community College; Evan Hutson, infielder, Normal West, IWU; Alex Zogg, infielder, Normal West, Millikin Univ.; Sam Heaton, infielder, BCC, John Carroll University; and Jonathan Naour, pitcher, BCC, IWU.

Bobcats: Alec McGinnis, infielder, Normal West, Augustana College; Tyler Thierry, Normal Community High School, Heartland Community College; Nick Gilhaus, infielder, NCHS, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Jake McCaw, infielder, NCHS, Illinois State University; Jake Marti, outfielder, Normal West, University of Michigan; J. D. Theile, pitcher, NCHS, Eureka College; Christian Badorek, pitcher, NCHS, Millikin University; Will Kafer, outfielder, Normal West, Illinois Wesleyan University; Griffin McClusky, pitcher, NCHS, Valparaiso University; Jacob Gilmore, pitcher, BCC, ISU; Jake Jacek, pitcher, NCHS, Cisco Community College; and Jimmy Butler, infielder, Tri-Valley High School, IWU.

We can all hope to see these players in action before KCL ends its season on Sunday, Aug. 9. Here is hoping these young men will be able to make the best of their KCL season before starting what we all hope are their very successful college careers.

By Steve Robinson | July 2, 2020 - 10:27 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Cornbelters, The Normalite

Local baseball fans will finally get to enjoy their favorite pastime as the Normal CornBelters will begin their second homestand of the 2020 season with a game which will serve as a benefit for the KBSTRONG Foundation, raising money to fight a form of cancer called gliobastoma.

The event, “Strike Out Cancer On KBStrong Night,” will be held on Friday, July 10, and will spotlight two games featuring teams from the newly-formed Kernels Collegiate League. The first pitch is scheduled for 5:30. Musical entertainment between games will be provided by the Joe Stamm Band on the stadium concourse following both games.

KBSTRONG honors Kevin Brown, the former Lexington High School basketball star who went on to success as a head boys’ basketball coach at Bloomington Central High School and at a high school in Colorado before being stricken by the disease. Brown passed away in June 2019.

To date KBSTRONG has raised $30,000 for the University of Illinois School of Medicine for cancer research, explained Mike Brown, a friend of Kevin’s and an organizer of the event.

KBSTRONG organizers are committed to raising $150,000 for the research over the next three years, Mike Brown added. In addition, money raised at KBSTRONG Night will be put toward grant money which will be given to patients stricken with glioblastoma which will help them financially. With the first year in the books, KBSTRONG has raised nearly $70,000 in its first year. The grants are known as McLean County KB Warrior Fund Grants.

Kevin Brown was a senior at Lexington High School in the mid-1980s, and Mike Brown was a junior when the two were teammates for the Minutemen along with current Normal Community West High School head baseball coach Chris Hawkins.

“He was always figuring out a way to coach throughout a game,” said Mike Brown. “Were he still battling the disease, he would have figured out a way to get his way through this. His goal was to be a survivor. He would have found an avenue to help other people.

“Kevin loved live music and baseball, and so we were just looking for a way to combine the two,” he added.

Lexington Little Leaguers To Get In For Free July 10: Mike Brown said Lexington Little League players will be able to get into the gamer for free. He added they also will be able to join the games’ players on the field for lineup introductions and the National Anthem.

Double-Headers Feature Former Local High School Players: The games fans will see this season will be called the Kernels League. The league will feature just four teams, all from the Twin Cities, but with college baseball players from Illinois State University, Bradley University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, and University of Indiana, to name a few, according to CornBelters General Manager Todd Kunze.

All games will be doubleheaders and will begin with first pitches slated for 5:30p.m. The season began on July 1 and will wrap up on Aug. 9.

COVID-19 Precautions In Place: As a precaution to safeguarding against COVID-19, game attendees will be required to wear face masks when on the stadium’s concourse, Kunze explained. He said masks will not be required when fans sit in the stands, but they will need to sit one row and three seats apart, which would fulfill the required 6 feet apart.

He added the team is abiding by regulations established by both the McLean County Health Department and State-mandated COVID-19 safety regulations. He added concessions areas and bathrooms are both thoroughly cleaned.