By Steve Robinson | April 10, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Eight days not playing baseball due to poor weather conditions after having been on the road down south was bound to get to a team sooner or later. For Normal Community High School as they took on Unit 5 arch rival Normal Community West, sooner was the first inning on Tuesday on their home field. That four-run first inning was all it took for the visiting Wildcats to beat the Ironmen, 4-2, in what were still blustery conditions.

The contest was the Big 12 Conference season opener for both teams, and Normal West (5-6 overall and 1-0 Big 12) wasted no time getting runs on the scoreboard thanks to a lead-off walk by designated hitter Brennan Diedrich. That was followed by a base hit by first baseman Jake Marti, who achieved a first base hit for his team in the game against NCHS starter J.D. Thiele. A base hit by catcher Ben Smith drove home Diedrich and Marti to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.

With the next batter, right fielder Cody Hardt at the plate, Smith stole second. Hardt singled and the pair advanced to second and third on a balk called against Ironmen starting pitcher Thiele. A single by left fielder C. J. Lewis brought Hardt and Smith across the plate with one out for a 4-0 lead.

Walks were the mode used to get two runs across the plate for NCHS (5-2) in the home half of the fourth inning. With one out, right fielder Sam Kahwaji singled. He was followed by first baseman Jacob Russo who walked. With two on, the next batter, first baseman Logan Fricker, also walked. With bases loaded, Normal West pitcher McCade Brown walked in Kahwaji and Russo before Normal West pitcher Tyler Thierry grounded out and was followed by a walk of left fielder Brody Fletcher. That resulted in what turned out to be the final score. The inning ended with designated hitter Nick Gilhaus striking out on a Brown pitch. Gilhaus was one of 11 batters who struck out with Brown on the mound. The victory gave Brown a 3-1 record.

Of Brown’s fourth inning struggles, Normal West head coach Chris Hawkins said, “He had one tough inning and getting his control back.” Prior to this contest, the Wildcats’ last game was a road game at Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin on April 2, Hawkins explained.

NCHS head coach Ryan Short encouraged his players to “have a short memory about that first inning.” Once they did that, he said, his players did well. “We did have some base runners in the first two or three innings, but we just couldn’t get anybody around.”

Short said his team practices under these conditions as much as possible to adjust to the cold because during the season, it’s likely to be like that until mid-May.

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