By Steve Robinson | June 2, 2019 - 10:15 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community West High School and Edwardsville looked to be evenly matched and still trying to size one another up, each side managing to score two runs in the opening inning to tie the contest to determine the Class 4A Sectional Champion at the contest played at Jack Horenberger Field on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus Saturday.

But a five-run second inning and three more in the fourth inning by the Tigers was what it took to close out Normal West’s season as the Tigers beat the Wildcats, 12-8. The loss helped close out Normal West’s season at 30-7.

A single by senior pitcher Austin Collinson started the top of the first inning, followed by a put-out on junior center fielder Will Kafer. Junior catcher Cole Hernandez was walked, and a double by senior right fielder Brandon Roth emptied the bases, putting West up, 2-0.

Collinson seemed unsettled against the first two batters for Edwardsville (34-5), walking leadoff hitter and sophomore center fielder Hayden Moore and second batter Blake Burris before forcing a put-out on third batter Drake Westcott. But with two on, a double by senior left fielder Joe Copeland scored Moore and Burris, tying the game at 2-2 before setting down the next two batters, senior shortstop Josh Ohl and senior third baseman Max Ringering to end the inning.

Normal West batters C. J. Lewis, Sean Shook, and Alec McGinnis went down in order to open the second inning, Edwardsville added to their lead in the bottom of that inning, starting with a double by junior first baseman Logan Cromer, who doubled scoring senior catcher Dalton Wallace who opened the Tigers’ half of the inning with a double. Cromer’s run batted in gave Edwardsville a 3-2 lead. A walk of Moore followed, and a single by Burris loaded the bases for junior first baseman Drake Westcott who blasted a grand slam home run over the right center field wall for a grand slam, pushing the Tigers in front, 7-2.

Collinson led off the top of the third with a double, was followed by center fielder Will Kafer striking out, and scored on a double by junior catcher Cole Hernandez, making the score, 7-3. Hernandez advanced to third from courtesy of an Edwardsville fielding error and crossed the plate during an out made on first baseman Evan Hutson, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 7-4.

Edwardsville went scoreless in the bottom of the third inning and Normal West fans saw their team open the fourth on a walk to Lewis followed by single by Shook. With two on, McGinnis hit a sacrifice fly to advance the runners to second and third, and a single by Collison allowed the pair to score, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 7-6.

Moore opened the bottom of the fourth inning with a single for Edwardsville and was followed by a put-out at first on Burris. With one gone, Westcott and Copeland each singled loading the bases. Shortstop Josh Ohl emptied the bases with a single, putting the Tigers up, 10-6.

Roth opened Normal West top half of the fifth inning by being hit by a pitch and advancing to first. After junior first baseman Evan Hutson struck out, senior designated hitter Brennan Diedrich walked and Lewis struck out for the team’s second out. Roth and Diedrich scored on a two-run double from Shook, cutting Edwardsville’s advantage to 10-8.

Edwardsville (34-5) failed to score in the bottom of the fifth as did Normal West in the top of the sixth. But after Burris singled in the bottom of the sixth, Westcott smacked his second home run of the day over the right field fence to push Edwardsville up, 12-8.

Diedrich led off Normal West bottom of the seventh inning hitting to second base for a put-out at first. With one gone, senior catcher Whitton Rice singled. But the Wildcats’ next batter, Shook hit the ball to Edwardsville shortstop Ohl who turned a double play to end the game and the Wildcats’ season.

Senior pitcher Grant Schaefer took the win for Edwardsville while Collinson took the loss.

Edwardsville head coach Tim Funkhouser was complimentary of Westcott’s two-homer performance on the day. “He’s got that real special ability to square up balls,” he explained. On facing Normal West, he added, “We knew there was a reason why they have won 30 games this year, and that came out very evident on film, so we knew their lineup was going to be really tough to pitch to. We also knew they had team speed throughout the lineup. Normal West played great quality defense in the two games we’ve seen. They’re a fundamentally sound team, so we knew they wouldn’t give us much at all.”

“Both teams kept punching,” explained Normal West head coach Chris Hawkins. “It was a heavyweight bout for a while.” He credited Collinson’s staying power throughout the game, exhibited by hit three hits in the contest. “He’s a warrior,” Hawkins said of his 5 foot-11, 170 pound senior.

Hawkins summed up the season by saying, “These guys did what they were asked. “We lost four games in March, one in April, and one in May. You know, we lost three games in March, one game in April, and one in May. We have been in the Sweet 16 game three straight years. We just have to keep grinding and get better. We’re right there. We’re knocking on the door.” His team this year had 10 juniors, Hawkins said, adding he hopes they find their way to the door to the playoffs again next year. The previous Sweet 16 losses were twice to Edwardsville and once to O’Fallon.

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