Special night in Normal ends with West winning in 9

By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

NORMAL - At the Corn Crib Stadium on the campus of Heartland Community College, the two Normal city rivals put on quite a show on Tuesday night. With every player and coach for both clubs wearing jersey No. 19, in honor of fallen 2010 Normal West Wildcat graduate Michael Collins, a special feeling prevailed prior to the first pitch. Collins (1992-2014), who tragically lost his life at the hands of a drunken driver earlier this month, was honored by a pregame ceremony celebrating his life and a moment of silence.

The two-rivals battled evenly through eight grueling innings before Normal West (11-8; 2-0) broke through with three runs in the top of the ninth and held off a Normal Community rally in the bottom of the ninth for a thrilling 6-3 victory. The Wildcats scored the three runs in the ninth on a Normal Community miscue, a perfectly executed suicide-squeeze bunt by junior Cody Rogers and an RBI single from senior Ryan Frye.

The Wildcats scored a pair of runs in the top of the first against Ironman starting pitcher junior Aaron Armstrong (8.1 IP, 5R, 3H, 3ER, 9K, 5BB).The runs were the first earned runs Armstrong (0-3) has allowed this season in  19 ⅔ innings pitched. Wildcat starting and winning pitcher Reed Rodgers plated the first run on a groundout and his batterymate sophomore Mitch Fairfield came through with a clutch two-out RBI single.

Rogers’ sac-fly made it 3-0 Wildcats in the third. Normal Community tied things up with three unearned runs against Rogers in the fifth. The inning was highlighted by senior Ben Wylde’s clutch two-out RBI single, making the score 3-2 and the Ironmen would tie the game on passed ball.

The story of the game was Rogers and Armstrong. Both pitchers had all of their pitches working and pitched outstanding games for their respective clubs. Rogers needed relief help from senior lefty Steve Lorenz in the ninth, who went on to nail down the save.

“Reed pitched a phenomenal game for us,” said Normal West head coach Chris Hawkins. “Reed got stronger as the game went on and probably could have finished it for us. Armstrong pitched a great game for Normal Community as well. This was a great game but not good for my heart.”

Rogers (4-2) allowed no earned runs and just six hits with eight punchouts, to pick up the victory.

“What a great game and a great team effort,” said Rogers. “Aaron Armstrong pitched a great game for them. It was one of those days where we just scored more runs than they did.”

Said Normal Community coach Ryan Short, “Aaron really pitched well for us. Other than his control problems in the first inning, Aaron  pitched a great game tonight.”  

 The two clubs will meet again at the Corn Crib Stadium at 6:30 on Thursday night. Both clubs will once again wear jersey 19 in honor of Collins, who wore No. 19, starring for Hawkins at West his senior year in 2010. Collins went on to play at Heartland CC, leading the Hawks to the JC College World Series, where he had one of his most memorable moments of his young life, having homered in one of the team’s World Series victories.

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