BLOOMINGTON — A devotee of “small ball,” Normal West High School baseball coach Chris Hawkins had three of his first four batters try to bunt Saturday at Howard Saar Field.
And although those attempts resulted in a bunt single and a successful sacrifice, the Wildcats did not score.
“The next inning I thought we’ll go without the bunt and we drove the ball,” Hawkins said. “We hit some balls over outfielders’ heads. Then we built on it.”
The Wildcats plated four second-inning runs on their way to a 10-1 Big 12 Conference victory in the opener. The nightcap, which does not count in the league standings, saw West rally from a three-run deficit for a 14-3 win.
“We’re swinging at a lot of strikes and being aggressive,” said West right fielder/catcher Cole Hernandez.
The Wildcats (15-4, 5-0 in the Big 12) extended their winning streak to 12.
Hernandez and Will Kafer blasted back-to-back triples to open the second inning. After a walk to Evan Hutson, Brennan Diedrich’s double to right-center field drove home two. Diedrich scored on a throwing error.
West boosted its lead to 9-1 in a five-run fifth that featured a two-run Diedrich single.
“Coach (Cory) Phillips helped me over the winter get my confidence and put a good bat on the ball,” said Diedrich, the Wildcats’ catcher and No. 9 hitter in the opener.
“Coach (Hawkins) always tells us how hard it is to make a lineup. We have like 12 guys who can absolutely slaughter the ball and only nine spots are able to hit.”
Austin Collinson (3-2) pitched the first 4⅓ innings for the victory. C.J. Lewis worked the final 2⅓.
BHS (5-13, 2-3) scored two first-inning runs in the nightcap. Liam McGill singled and scored on a Nick Sharp single. Alec Imhoff scored from third as Sharp was caught attempting to steal second.
McGill doubled in the third, stole third and scored on a throwing error for a 3-0 Purple Raiders’ lead.
BHS starter Sharp held West scoreless through four innings. West cut its deficit to 3-2 in the fifth when Kafer’s fly ball was lost in the sun and fell for a two-run double. The Wildcats seized a 5-3 lead in the sixth with the help of a Raiders’ error.
“Sharp was lights out. We catch a fly ball and he’s in position to win 3-0,” BHS coach Steve Clapp said. “They were better games than the scores show. I love my guys. We’re young, but I think we’re moving in a really positive direction.”
Raiders’ pitchers hit four Wildcats, walked three and BHS committed three errors in a nine-run West seventh. The only hit was a three-run Hernandez double.
Brandon Roth moved to 3-0 by pitching five innings of the second game. Kafer finished on the hill for his second save.
“I thought our starters did a good job throwing strikes,” said Hawkins.
BHS outhit West, 7-5, in the second game with McGill registering two hits for the Raiders.