No. 12 Normal West halts No. 9 Bloomington's win streak

By Drake Skleba

NORMAL, IL - No.12 Normal West trailed No. 9 Bloomington 3-0 as the Big 12 Conference showdown at West went to the bottom of the fourth inning. With some clutch hitting and a lot of help from Bloomington’s defense, the Wildcats scored the last nine runs of the game and blasted the Purple Raiders 9-3.

With the win, Normal West (27-6; 10-2) pulls into a tie for the top-spot in the Big 12 with Bloomington (27-7; 10-2). On Thursday at 4:30, the two clubs will meet in Bloomington for the outright Big 12 championship.

The game on Tuesday wasn't pretty. Both clubs committed five errors and seven of the 12 runs scored were unearned. Even with the lack of artistic achievement in the field, both starting pitchers - Normal West junior Alex Jefferson and Bloomington's junior Roman Visintine - put on a show in the first three innings.

Jefferson (9-0) pitched out of bases-loaded jams in the first and second innings to keep the Raiders off the scoreboard. Visintine (5-1) allowed a pair of hits and put three goose-eggs on the board for West.

Bloomington picked up three unearned runs in the top of the fourth to go up 3-0. Bloomington's all-time career hits leader, senior Curtis Wiese (2-for-4, 2 RBI), plated a pair of runs with a wicked single to center to put the Raiders up 2-0. Red-hot senior third-baseman Matt Mardis (2-for-4, 2B, RBI) singled home Wiese with a clutch two-out, RBI single to give a Bloomington a 3-0 lead.

Normal West scored its first run of the game in the bottom of the fourth on a balk by Visintine.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Wildcats hit the Raiders with a seven-spot to put away the game at 8-3. NIU-Bound third-baseman Wes Sery tied things up with a two-run single with the bases-loaded

“We came out flat and we can't do that Thursday,” said Sery. “It was great the way we came back and overcame our adversities. Visintine had been giving me fastballs on the first pitch so I was looking for it and drove home the runs.”

Wildcat junior catcher Adam McGinnis (2-for-4; RBI) laid down a beautiful bunt for a single and when the Blooomington third baseman fired the ball down the right-field line, two Wildcats scored to make it 5-3.

“We made a lot of mistakes early,” said McGinnis. “We played small-ball well tonight. It was nice to come out today and I really helped my team. It will be a battle in Bloomington on Thursday.”

The Raider defensive misadventures continued, leading to four unearned runs in the seven-run fifth. Wildcat junior Turner Reid had an RBI double for West.

Meanwhile, Jefferson fired six solid innings on the mound for the Wildcats to pick up his ninth win of the campaign without a defeat. He scattered five hits and all three runs he allowed were unearned.
“I thought I did pretty well. I left a couple of pitches up and they hit the ball pretty hard,” said Jefferson. “I have been struggling at the plate this week but I was aggressive today and had a good day. Our team never quits and this was a great victory. Bloomington will really come after us on Thursday. We have to go out and match their intensity.”

Wildcat junior centerfielder Jake Evans chipped in with three hits, two of the bunt-single variety. For the year, Evans has terrorized opposition pitchers and third baseman with a dozen bunt-singles.

“We started out a little slow but we really came back when we had to,” said Evans. “I did pretty well at the plate. Coach (Hawkins) wants me to bunt and utilize my speed. We have to start fast on Thursday. If we do I think we will win the championship.”

Bloomington saw an end to its 14-game winning streak and will be looking for some payback at home on Thursday.

“Both teams kicked the ball around a little,” said Normal West head coach Chris Hawkins. “Alex (Jefferson) has the heart of a champion. A fierce competitor and  he's only a jury. Wes (Sery) also is a fierce competitor. He dealt with some failure and really came through for us at the plate. Adam (McGinnis) really created those two runs with his willingness to lay down a bunt.”

IL Top Prospect Showcase slide 6-14-12