NORMAL – College baseball and softball coaches go out recruiting players who have a special combination of skills, both visible on and off the field: They look for someone who can hit well, field the ball in a tight situation while on the field and still keep their cool and stay current on their studies while the season is in progress. They also look for someone whose personality will mesh well with the current players.

As it turned out, when Illinois State University Softball Head Coach Melinda Fischer recruited Jayden Standish, both she and the Redbirds Softball team quickly discovered they found the right young lady to add to their squad. How quickly? In the Redbirds’ contest against Coastal Carolina University on March 7 during one of her four at-bats, freshman Standish belted a grand slam home run aiding her team in their 12-5 win.

Standish plays third base for the Redbirds and will major in Nursing at ISU, which operates Mennonite College of Nursing. She admits after she makes contact with the ball, she always wants to see it take flight.

But in the end, after making contact, Standish said, “I never watch it. I just assume it’s going out. I always have to ask other people where it went. It felt like good contact and I ran it out. It was a good solid hit.”

As of Monday, after 64 at-bats, the 2020 Lexington High School grad is carrying a .266 average having smacked 17 hits including 5 home runs, a triple and two doubles and scoring 9 runs. She has struck out 22 times and walked 7 times.

“We’d been watching Jayden for several years and we knew she had that power potential,” Fischer said, adding, “Most important with Jayden was her ability to be consistent at the plate. That was what we were looking for from everybody in our program, but that was exciting for her home run to be a grand slam and that’s something that will be in Jayden’s memory book forever.”

“My freshman year has been a good start,” Standish, daughter of John and Sara Standish, said. “I have had a lot of fun. We have had a lot of wins and it’s been a full team effort off the bench. Our pitching staff has been amazing, so I can’t say enough about this team, so it makes all my freshman season, all my little successes, seem like nothing compared to what this team has done so far. I feel like I am having a good start. I am just hoping we can keep it going.”

As for her career aspirations, she said when she was at LHS, she shadowed an anesthesiologist at Carle Clinic in Champaign a couple summers ago to experience what that career is like. “I just really liked the atmosphere,” she explained, adding being in an operating room furthered her enthusiasm toward her choice of careers. “I liked being able to stay in the O. R. and just watch surgeries all day. That kind of environment was something I really would be interested in. But I also know that there are a lot of different paths in a nursing career. In four years, I could decide to do something else. But as of right now, I am interested in anesthesiology.”

During her high school years, softball wasn’t the only sport her family and LHS fans could find Jayden engaged in helping earn victories for. She played in three other sports – Basketball, Volleyball, and Track.

But before she graduates and dawns a mask and gloves heading into an O.R. for her livelihood, there is still time for her to add wins to the Redbirds’ record books. “She’s continued to provide some long power for us, which put us back in the game on Sunday,” Fischer said, specifically pointing to a home run Standish hit which kept the Redbirds close against Southern Illinois, a contest the Redbirds lost in a 3-2 decision.

Fischer said Standish is credited with a home run each in a pair of games at the Middle Tennessee State University Invitational Tournament, and on April 18 homered into right field and drove a run batted in against Southern Illinois keeping the Redbirds in the game only to drop a 3-2 decision to the Salukis.

Standish said despite having to adjust how the team operates as a result of the COVID pandemic, “Not being able to stretch outside our bubble too much, I still had a fantastic freshman year. I’ve gotten really close with the team and, of course, with some other friends here at ISU. We have really focused on Softball, and I’ve focused on school. Just being here on campus has been a lot of fun. I’m only 20 minutes from home but being here has been a growing experience for me being on my own.”

Standish said her goals while she is at ISU include helping the team earn “some rings within these four years, get a degree, and just make a lot of memories at ISU. I’m excited to see what this team can do.”

Jayden Isn’t The Only Family Member To Play Sports For ISU: Playing sports in a Redbirds jersey has been part of Jayden’s family. Her aunt, Teresa Standish, played softball at ISU over 25 years ago, and her uncle, Jan Rvehlicke, was on ISU’s men’s soccer team. Jayden makes the sixth person in her family to attending ISU.

Team Has Had 14 Games Cancelled, All Weather Related: Fischer explained her team has had 14 games cancelled but none of the cancellations were due to COVID-19, but rather to poor weather conditions. Those cancellations included three games called at the River City Leadoff Tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., and two at the Tennessee Invitational Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn.

By Steve Robinson | April 18, 2021 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – A trio of University High players – senior running backs Justin Johnson and Peter Deffenbaugh, and senior wide receiver Gavin Markert proved too much for visiting Champaign Central High School Friday night as the Pioneers defeated the Maroons, 63-12, in a non-conference contest at Hancock Stadium on Illinois State University’s campus. The Maroons were a hurried substitution for the team U-High was originally scheduled in this home contest, Decatur Eisenhower High School. That school bowed out due to issues related to COVID-19.

After the Maroons punted to end its initial set of downs from the kickoff and displayed poor execution getting rid of the ball on fourth down, U-High (2-3) began its first possession at Champaign’s 28. Five plays later, Deffenbaugh’s rushing play into the end zone put his team in front, 7-0, following sophomore Declan Duley’s successful extra point at 9:23 in the first quarter.

U-High’s next possession started courtesy of an interception by Johnson in his role as defensive back, picking off a pass from Maroons junior quarterback Cody Brown. That interrupted the Maroons’ drive which began at their own 25 but put the Pioneers starting at the Maroons’ 48. Two plays later, Deffenbaugh’s 10 yard rushing touchdown at 7:22 in the quarter followed by Duley’s extra point added to the Pioneers’ lead, 14-0.

The Pioneers’ defense got into the act of scoring, too, during this contest, thanks to an interception by senior defensive back Jack Dameron. With Champaign starting a drive at their own 21, Dameron picked off Brown’s third down pass running it in for a 33 yard score at the 5:03 mark followed by Duley’s extra point, increasing U-High’s lead, 21-0.

Big 12 Conference opponent Champaign Central (0-5) ended their ensuing possession with a turnover on downs giving U-High the ball at the Maroons’ 43. Five plays later, sophomore quarterback Colin Cunningham connected with Markert for a 31 yard touchdown with 1:41 left in the quarter followed by Duley’s extra point, upping the Pioneers’ advantage, 28-0, going into the second quarter.

The ensuing set of downs for Champaign Central (0-5) resulted in a punt which put the Pioneers starting at their own 33 as the final seconds of the first quarter ticked away. Four plays later, a 27 yard pass from Cunningham to Johnson, followed by Duley’s extra point, put the Pioneers up, 35-0, at the 10:46 mark.

Defensive lineman Elon Mondy recovered a Champaign fumble interrupting a drive which started at their own 26 but ended at U-High’s 47, giving possession back to the Pioneers. Six plays later, junior running back Neil Sundaram scored from four yards out. Duley’s extra point extended U-High’s lead, 42-0, with 2:44 until halftime.

Champaign Central scored with 48 second left on a 60 yard pass from Brown to freshman receiver Braylon Thompson, but the Maroons’ 2-point conversion try failed, allowing U-High to maintain a 42-6 lead with 4:48 left in the quarter.

Each team experienced a set of downs resulting in a punt after that, and when the Pioneers got the ball back following the Maroons’ punt, they started at Champaign’s 40. One play later, Cunningham connected with Johnson again, this time for a 40 yard touchdown strike, followed by another Duley extra point, giving the Pioneers a 49-6 lead going into halftime.

Once the second half began, game officials employed IHSA’s “Mercy Rule,” – as a result of the 40-point plus difference in the game score, using a continuously running clock, stopping it only for timeouts taken by a team or because of an injury. The running clock began as the third quarter opened. Three plays after U-High received the second half kickoff, Markert scored his second touchdown of the contest from 25 yards out from Cunningham’s pass at 9:49 in the quarter followed by Duley’s extra point, increasing the Pioneers’ lead, 56-6.

Champaign Central scored their last points of the night on a handoff from Brown to junior running back Davis Willis for a seven yard rushing touchdown at 3:59 in the third quarter followed by a failed 2-point conversion attempt, cutting U-High’s lead, 56-12.

Just as he had started the evening scoring, Deffenbaugh closed out the Pioneers’ scoring on the night with a 37 yard rushing score, capping a 6 play, 76 yard drive followed by Duley’s extra point.

“I thought it was going to be a dogfight to be honest with you,” University High head coach John Johnson said afterward. “We came out and got up by two touchdowns and I think that broke their will a little bit. We did pretty well as a team tonight. I am very proud of our kids.”

Johnson had praise for Cunningham saying, “I remember telling reporters I thought he was going to be a good quarterback and I think he showed it tonight. The line blocked well for him a lot of times, he executed our whole offense, but he studied hard on our offense and he executed.”

“This was a team win,” Johnson said, adding praise for receivers, saying. “Neil Sundaram came in and he’s been working hard in practice and it was his time tonight.”

Prior to this contest, the team had struggled internally. But after this victory, as for the team’s complete effort, Johnson said, “They pulled the rope in the same direction all night and that really made a big difference.”

Johnson said he knew nothing about Champaign Central prior to the contest, adding, “I thought we were going to have a donnybrook here, but we played them pretty well.”

“We are a young team, so my frustrations are that I like to see my players compete ‘til the end of the game,” explained Champaign Central head coach Tim Turner, adding he saw his players do that.” He added the team has a motto of “we’ll play anybody anytime anyplace,” so the change of coming here had no effect on his players.

He said he thought his troops moved the ball “pretty well, but when you have 4 or 5 turnovers, it’s going to be difficult to score.” Champaign Central had two interceptions, two fumbles, and turned the ball over on downs to U-High twice.

The Pioneers are slated to travel to Jacksonville for a Central State Eight Conference contest Friday night.

By Steve Robinson | April 13, 2021 - 3:04 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – Although University High was able to keep pace with Springfield Lanphier High School during the first quarter of their Central State Eight Conference contest Friday night, the Pioneers’ defense’s not being able to contain Lions’ senior running back Tierre Butler allowed the senior running back to score twice on the night. That contributed to the end result of the Lions defeating the Pioneers, 33-20, before a small Hancock Stadium crowd.

Following a scoreless first quarter. U-High (1-3) grabbed a 3-0 lead on sophomore kicker Declan Duley’s 32 yard field goal 3 seconds into the second quarter. His points capped a five play 30 yard drive. Before that the Lions had trouble getting out of their own territory giving a field advantage to the Pioneers.

U-High increased its lead, 10-0, on a four yard score from senior running back Peter Deffenbaugh capping a 3 play 38 yard march at 7:09 in the quarter, followed by a Duley extra point.

Butler put Springfield Lanphier (2-2) on the board at 4:46 in the quarter on a 1 yard run capping a 6 play 69 yard drive followed by an extra point by sophomore kicker Alex Suprenant cutting the Pioneers’ lead, 10-7.

U-High were able to march into Lions territory on their next possession until they got to the Lions’ 30. From there, a pair of incomplete passes and a short yardage gain forced Duley to kick a 31 yard field goal for the Pioneers to increase their lead to 13-7 with 2:47 left in the half.

A second Butler touchdown from 7 yards out capped a 5 play 54 yard drive for the Lions from the ensuing kickoff followed by Suprenant’s extra point, putting Springfield Lanphier in front for the first time, 14-13, with 2:47 left, putting the Lions in front at the half.

An 80 yard pass from Lions senior quarterback Jacob Galassi to senior wide receiver A’Tejon Lee would help push the visitor’s lead, 21-13, following another Suprenant extra point. Lee’s score would be the only play in the drive toward the score at the 4:30 mark in the third quarter.

Each side would give up the ball on downs for their next possession, but Springfield Lanphier would score a final time at 4:17 in the fourth quarter as Galassi would scramble around Pioneers defenders for a 10 yard touchdown but Suprenant missed the extra point, but the Lions increased the lead, 27-13.

Senior running back Lamar Manning would a short yardage touchdown with 2:52 left in the game, but the extra point try failed, giving Springfield Lanphier a 33-13 lead.

Pioneers senior wide receiver Gavin Markert would catch a 28-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Collin Cunningham for a touchdown with 7 seconds left in the game, followed by Duley’s extra point leading to the final score.

“Up front, we knew their running game was good and we respect them for that,” explained Springfield Lanphier head coach Don Goff after the game, giving a nod to the Pioneers’ offense. ”But we felt we could get the ball to our athletes out in open spaces. We haven’t had a quarterback who likes to throw the ball as much as he does, and so we got the ball out in the parimeter and our kids made some great plays.”

Goff had praise for the Pioneers’ effort on the night, saying, “They are well coached and they play hard. They’re well coached.”

“We made this team look like a hundred bucks in this game,” Pioneers head coach John Johnson said of Springfield Lanphier in comparison to his squad. “We made too many mistakes. We should have won the game, but we didn’t. We made too many mistakes and we’re too divided.”

Champaign Central Visits Hancock Stadium Friday: The Pioneers will be home Friday night but Champaign Central from the Big 12 Conference will be the opponent rather than Decatur Eisenhower as noted on some schedules. Kickoff is slated for 7p.m. at Hancock Stadium.

By Steve Robinson | April 4, 2021 - 10:25 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community High School’s football team has had its way with Big 12 Conference rival Bloomington High School for the last seven years, winning at home and here at Fred Carlton Field. Friday night, however, in a low scoring affair, the Purple Raiders’ scored on both offense and defense while confining the Ironmen to being scoreless for half the contest as BHS defeated NCHS, 12-6, Friday night. The win gave the Purple Raiders their first victory on the abbreviated season.

BHS (1-2) scored first to complete their first series of downs following the opening kickoff with senior running back Ean Haggarty bursting through the Ironmen defense for a 49 yard touchdown drive at 9:50 in the first quarter. That play capped a 6 play 86 yard drive followed by a successful extra point by junior kicker Cameron Anderson, putting the hosts up, 7-0.

Later in the quarter, with NCHS deep in their own territory, Ironmen sophomore kicker Ryan Millmore lost and recovered the ball in the end zone before he could punt and BHS freshman defensive lineman Miguel Espindola tackled Millmore for a safety, increasing the Purple Raiders’ lead, 9-0, going into the second quarter.

From there, defenses for both sides stayed busy through the second and third quarters preventing any scoring. A 26 yard field goal by Anderson ended that drought with 7:04 left in the contest extended BHS’ advantage capping a 65 yard drive, extending the Purple Raiders’ lead to 12-3.

BHS’ defense kept NCHS close to midfield following the ensuing kickoff but the Ironmen managed to get to the BHS 31 as time started winding down. Millmore entered the contest a last time with 5:55 remaining kicking a 41 yard field goal which cut BHS’ lead in half. But NCHS could not gain possession again before the final horn.

Ironmen sophomore backup quarterback Chase Wiese completed 15-of-31 passes for 163 yards in what was his debut under center. Wellman completed 8-of-13 passes garnering 81 yards in the victory.

NCHS was short-handed going into this contest as junior starting quarterback Chase Mackey was continuing to recover from an injury he suffered during NCHS’ opening game against Normal Community West March 20. In addition, contact tracing related to COVID-19 kept NCHS’ all five offensive line players sidelined. In all, a total of seven Ironmen players did not play due to COVID-19 related issues.

BHS head coach Scott Godfrey said he was aware of the medical issues NCHS faced coming into this game and had praise for how his team got back on the winning track against the Ironmen. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said about snapping his team’s losing streak against the Ironmen. “It’s a big win for us.”

“We put the pressure on our guys all week if we wanted into the playoffs,” Godfrey added. “We knew we were going to have to earn it against NCHS and our guys came out and executed.”

“It hurts to get beat, but I’m extremely proud of our guys and how they battled,” NCHS head coach Jason Drengwitz said. “We had the short hand tonight, but the credit goes to Bloomington. They played well offensively. They played well on special teams and they played really well on defense.

“Maybe we’ll get a chance to play them again,” the second season Ironmen head coach said. “I’m disappointed for the loss and I’m disappointed for our seniors. However, I’m really proud of the effort our kids played. They fought hard and they never gave up. They stuck together to the very end.”

Drengwitz was quick to credit Wiese for his effort on the night, saying, “For his first start, he did a really nice job. He battled a lot of adversity and did a lot of difficult things.”

By Steve Robinson | March 27, 2021 - 11:22 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – University High School earned its first Central State 8 Conference win Friday night, overtaking Springfield Southeast in a 49-6 victory at Hancock Stadium on Illinois State University’s campus. Pioneers senior running back-defense back Peter Deffenbaugh scored on runs of 4 and 6 yards topping it off with an 82 yard scoring sprint to complete the night.

The sole score by Springfield Southeast (0-2) on the night came courtesy of a 21 yard interception touchdown by senior defense back Jared Harris, picking off a pass from Pioneers senior quarterback Camdyn Barclay converting it into what would be the Spartans’ only score of the night. That was followed by a failed two-point conversion. As a result, the visitors had a quick 6-0 lead going into the second quarter.

But from there, U-High (1-1) owned the evening, starting with taking the lead on a 13 yard rushing touchdown from senior wide receiver Ethan Hunt, followed by a successful extra point by sophomore kicker Declan Duley. That would put the Pioneers up 7-6, with 11 minutes left in the half.

U-High’s next score would come on a 36 yard touchdown pass from Barclay to senior wide receiver Justin “J.J.” Johnson at 6:04 in the second quarter, followed by Duley’s extra point, advancing the Pioneers lead to 14-6. U-High added a second touchdown in the half thanks to Deffenbaugh’s first score on the night, a 4 yard dash into the end zone at 2:46 until halftime followed by Duley’s extra point, increasing the Pioneers lead going into the half, 21-6.

Barclay’s 35 yard touchdown pass to senior Matthew Davenport helped the Pioneers open the second half with a 7 play 69 yard march into the end zone followed by another Duley extra point, giving U-High a 28-6 lead.

Deffenbaugh’s next rushing score from 6 yards out followed by Duley’s extra point helped add to the Pioneers’ lead, 35-6 at the four minute mark in the third quarter.

A Spartans special teams player bobbled and lost the ball after the ensuing kickoff giving Pioneers senior linebacker Harris Carr an opportunity to recover it, putting U-High at the Spartans’ 25 yard line for their next possession. It took the Pioneers three plays in one minute to get to the 1-yard line, highlighted by a 24 yard Barclay pass to junior quarterback-turned-receiver Konnor Bouman to get the Pioneers to the 1-yard line. From there, senior wide receiver Gavin Markert dashed into the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Pioneers up, 42-6.

On the Spartans’ next possession, an interception by Davenport stopped Springfield Southeast in the midst of a 6-play drive at the U-High 20 yard line. One play later, Deffenbaugh rushed for an 80 yard touchdown, followed by Duley’s last extra point on the night resulting in the final score.

“I feel like I stepped up this game and that 82 yard really helped me out,” Deffenbaugh said, adding he had a couple tackles in which Springfield Southeast lost yardage. He said the victory “definitely felt like a team win, for sure. We kept a good mentality throughout the whole game and we made big stops on defense and scored a bunch on offense. That really helped us out.”

Pioneers head coach John Johnson had praise for his six foot, 190 pound senior’s efforts on the night. “He ran the ball well and he blocked well, and he had an interception. He had a great game.”

Once the Pioneers figured out how to get around the Spartans’ secondary unit players, Johnson explained, “We started burning them pretty bad.”

The fourth season head coach added his staff challenged members of the defense all week to prevent Springfield Southeast from scoring as soon as the Pioneers put points on the board themselves. Johnson said that appears to be a pattern when playing other CS8 teams. “The defense answered the bell tonight. They played very hard.”

“We’ve got to execute, stay true to the game plan and just execute right,” Springfield Southeast head coach Matt Lauber said in explaining what his team should have accomplished during Friday’s contest. “U-High didn’t do anything different from what we planned for.” From looking at the Pioneers on film, Lauber added, “We thought we could take advantage of some stuff which would help clog up some of the running game. We did a good job on the run game. It was more the receivers that got us. That’s what hurt.”