By Steve Robinson | June 2, 2018 - 10:20 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – O’Fallon High School head baseball coach Jason Portz spent the days leading up to the Illinois High School Association Class 4A Sectional championship at Jack Horenberger Field on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus telling his players a small number of runs scored would not be enough to beat Normal Community West, coached by his friend, Chris Hawkins.

He was right. Although they scored two runs in the bottom of the third inning to jump to a 2-0 lead, having an explosive 8-run fifth inning gave some distance between them and Normal West en route to a 9-0 blanking of the Wildcats to take the Sectional title.

After two scoreless innings, O’Fallon senior catcher Jeremy Reno reached first base on an error by Wildcats junior shortstop Jeremy Collinson to begin the bottom of the third inning. That was followed by leadoff batter and junior shortstop Josh Gibson being hit by a pitch from Wildcats senior starter McCade Brown. With two on, senior pitcher Brayden Arnold hit a double all the way to the center field wall, scoring Reno and Gibson, giving the Panthers a 2-0 edge.

There would be two more scoreless innings for both sides afterward, and Normal West (24-15) would go down in order in the top of the fifth. From there, O’Fallon (35-3-1) would add to their lead. Two walked batters and a single by Arnold loaded the bases for senior third baseman Hayden Juenger who was walked by Brown, increasing O’Fallon’s lead, 3-0. The Panthers would score five more times that inning while keeping the Wildcats at bay to achieve victory.

“With the arm they had out there,” Portz said in reference to Brown who will attend and play at Indiana next season, “If his command had been different and our kids don’t battle, and we continue to chase above our hands, we’d be in trouble.”

Portz said he told his players it would take more than two runs to beat a Normal West squad he knew would continue to fight through to the last out.

“We knew we were going to have to be about perfect to have a shot at beating them, and we weren’t,” Hawkins said afterward. “They were really good as advertised, number one in Illinois. We gave a lot of free bases and you just can’t do that with them.”

Arnold pitched seven innings striking out eight batters for the win. Brown pitched four plus innings striking four batters in the loss.

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