Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Team Countdown: No. 33 Normal West

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

Leading up to the start of the high school season, we will count down the top 75 preseason teams every day as part of our comprehensive season coverage: 

Team: Normal West
Preseason Rank:
2013 Record:
Big 12
IHSA Class:
Head Coach:
Chris Hawkins
Playoff Run: Lost in Regional Championship (Moline)
2013 Final Rank: 11

Returning Starters: 3
Returning Pitchers:


Reed Rogers, 1B/RHP, 2014 (Heartland CC)
Reid Birlingmair, SS/RHP, 2015
Ryan Frye, OF, 2014 (Evangel University)
Mitch Fairfield, C, 2016
Cody Rogers, OF, 2016
Dante Ruffin, INF, 2016

Reid Birlingmair
. The athletic left-handed hitting two-way talent wasn’t needed much on the mound last year, but he will be counted on to deliver quality innings this season with several key graduations. Birlingmair is a college prospect as a position player, but he has a live, mid-80s fastball on the mound. 

Mitch Fairfield, C, 2016
Dante Ruffin, INF, 2016

Matthew James, RHP/SS (Illinois)
Alex Jefferson, OF/RHP (Missouri State)
Adam McGinnis, C (Western Illinois)
Nick Hieb, RHP (Illinois State)

Ryan Frye
swiped 17 bases, drove in 38, batted .451 and tallied 4 homers and 41 hits as a junior last spring.

The Wildcats enjoyed an incredible 2013 campaign last season, sitting atop of the team rankings for a chunk of the season, and were poised to make a serious state championship run. But Normal West got an awful playoff draw, matching up with a red-hot Moline club in the regional final and lost. The Wildcats graduated significant talent from last year’s team. Most notably, they will need to learn to win without the services of two-time All-State selection Matthew James, who did it all during his storied four-year career. Much of the Wildcats’ pitching staff is gone, in fact, along with several other key contributors. Nevertheless, coach Chris Hawkins always seems to put a winning team on the field, year in and year out. This year, however, Hawkins has a fairly young and untested squad to mold. Frontline pitching may be the biggest obstacle for the Wildcats, who steamrolled through the Big 12 conference undefeated last spring. Hawkins has arms to work with, but they are mostly untested. Birlingmair, a talented junior, will be leaned on heavily both offensively, defensively and on the mound. Offensively, the Wildcats have the capability to put runs on the board with the return of Reed Rogers (.424 BA, 27 RBI), Frye and Birlingmair (.423 BA, 29 RBI, 44 hits). Sophomore C Mitch Fairfield is a burgeoning star for the Wildcats, as the 6-foot-1 backstop has a solid arm and power potential at the plate. Hawkins has several other sophomores that may contribute as well, including INF Dante Ruffin and OF Dave Watson, to name a few. Junior OF Cody Rogers will also be counted on this season.

Normal West has been one of the state’s most consistent programs over the last decade, winning nearly 30 games every year. Coach Hawkins doesn’t quite have the horses he had in past years, but there is still plenty of talent still walking the hallways. Normal West should likely capture another Big 12 championship, though it won’t be a runaway like last year. Whether they can do anything in the playoffs will depend on how quickly his young players mature.

Season Countdown

+ Preseason Team Rankings

+ Updated Illinois 2014 Player Rankings

+ June Event Schedule

 2014 IL Top Prospect Slide