Prep Baseball Report

Normal West Wins Rain Shortened Battle With Champaign Centennial

By Ryan Quigley
Illinois Scouting Director

NORMAL, IL -  Champaign Centennial erupted for five runs with two outs in the top of the seventh inning on Saturday at Normal West, taking a 5-3 lead over the Wildcats…that is until the rain came. In one of the stranger twists in a high school baseball game this spring, Normal West won 3-0 over the visiting Chargers after lightning and rain made field conditions unplayable after an hour rain and lightning delay. Due to Big 12 Conference rules the game would not be picked up where it left off at a later date.  Rather, the last completed inning stood as the final score, awarding the Wildcats a victory and senior ace Reid Birlingmair a no-hitter.

Normal West coach Chris Hawkins said, “In 24 years of coaching I’ve never been a part of a game that finished that way. I have nothing but respect for what Centennial did in the dark there in the top of the seventh coming back on us. It’s not a way I want to win and it would be tough to be on the other side of that.”

Champaign Centennial coach Ryan Remole echoed Hawkins’ thoughts, staying classy in a difficult situation, “It was a great game with a duel between Birlingmair and Lindgren, and it’s disappointing the way it ends, but maybe that last inning lights a fire under us. We’ve lost five in a row (three one-run games and two two-run games) against quality teams, but we only need to win seven in a row to get done what our focus is on this year."

This game story has two narratives: Normal West’s Reid Birlingmair’s six-inning no-hit performance, and Centennial’s five run rally, all with two outs against the Wildcats’ ace.

Early on Birlingmair and Centennial ace Jeff Lindgren were locked in a pitcher’s duel. Both seniors impressed peppering the strike zone, Birlingmair sat in the 84-87 mph range throughout, touching 89 and 90 mph in the first.

Normal West struck first in the bottom of the fourth. Senior right fielder Evan Mucciolo led off with a single to center, then was sacrificed to second by junior catcher Mitch Fairfield. An infield error placed runners on first and third. Senior Eugeniy Fuss pinch ran for Reid Biglingmair at first, and promptly stole second base. West scored their first run on an RBI sac fly to left by senior third baseman Arion Worthman (Air Force signee), with Fuss advancing to third on the play. With Lindgren working out of the windup, Fuss broke for home and stole the games second run of the day.

On manufacturing runs Hawkins added, “We had the right guy in the right spot to steal home, we’ve done it a few times this year. I had to yell at our guy (Peyton Dillingham) to not swing, and their catcher had to come up out of the crouch.”

The Wildcats manufactured another run in the fifth on a two-strike, suicide squeeze by junior first baseman Nate Beal, scoring Zach Schwarz, who doubled to lead off the inning and had been sacrificed to third base.

Meanwhile, Birlingmair was mowing down Centennial hitters, through six innings Normal West’s ace had not allowed a hit, striking out eight in the process with no walks. In fact, if not for an infield throwing error on a ground ball to short in the second inning, Birlingmair was perfect, retiring 18 of 19 hitters in his outing.

That’s where the narrative skews, as technically Normal West wins 3-0 and Birlingmair is credited with a no-hit, complete game shutout.

With the sky darkening and ominous cloud cover rolling in, Champaign Central started its seventh inning rally with a line drive single to left by sophomore pinch hitter Kellen Sarver. Junior rightfielder Quin Nottingham walked, and sophomore pinch hitter Jordan Williams singled into the four hole to load the bases.

Remole said, “With sophomores being called onto pinch hit, there was nothing to lose in that situation. We’ve been in an offensive slump, and I think it fired up our dugout. Moving forward hopefully it’s the wakeup call.”

It looked as though Birlingmair may wiggle out of the jam with a fielder’s choice ground ball to first cutting down Sarver at home plate and a subsequent strikeout. Back-to-back walks to Anthony and Lucas Martin forced in the first two Charger runs, chasing Birlingmair from the game.

Junior Owen Ericson relieved Birlingmair and worked the count full to Centennial catcher Mike Namoff. A fastball off Namoff’s thigh scored Lindgren, tying the game at three. Senior shortstop Dylan Grady’s line drive double to left field scored both Martins, capping the Charger five run rally.

Lindgren took the tough luck loss when the rain came during his seventh inning warm up tosses. The Parkland bound right-hander impressed throughout, allowing only four hits in his six innings of work, striking out six and walking none. Only one of the three Normal West runs were earned.

Remole added, “He’s a special talent, a later bloomer velocity wise who’s coming into his own.” Lindgren sat 83-86 mph throughout the outing, and reportedly has touched higher this spring. He was pitching after missing the last several days of school coming off a sickness.

Zach Schwarz led Normal West offensively with two hits.

Normal West improves to 22-8 on the season, 12-2 in Big 12 conference play, where they currently sit tied atop the standings with Champaign Central. The Wildcats meet Peoria Richwoods on Tuesday for their final conference game at 4:30 at Dozer Park in Peoria, home of the St. Louis Cardinals Midwest League affiliate. Champaign Centennial drops to 22-8.

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