NORMAL — The University High School baseball team fought fire with fire against red-hot Normal West Friday in the Michael Collins Invitational at the Corn Crib.
The Pioneers bashed four home runs — including two lengthy blasts from Jackson Powell — in a 10-8 victory that snapped a 14-game Wildcats’ winning streak.
“These guys are really good. They are going to be a tough out for anybody the remainder of the year,” U High coach Steve Paxson said of West. “But we finally showed up at the plate and did a lot of things really well.”
Powell cracked a solo home run to left-center field in the second inning and added an eye-opening shot over the center-field barrier with a man on in the third.
“That felt great. Everything was going for me,” Powell said. “I decided to keep my head down, short swing. It just all clicked.”
Jacob Mote and Paul Africano added solo homers in the fourth for the Pioneers (14-6). U High led 10-2 before the Wildcats (17-5) rallied with four in the fifth inning and one run each in the sixth and seventh.
“Give their pitchers credit. They got tough when the tough got going,” said West coach Chris Hawkins, whose team stranded 15 baserunners. “Our guys did fight and claw. It’s going to make us better.”
Freshman Jake Swartz pitched the first 4⅓ innings for U High to improve to 4-0.
Brandon Roth hit a solo homer in the first inning for the Wildcats. Cole Hernandez had a two-run single in the fifth.
Jackson Blemler had three hits for U High.
NCHS starts fast: Normal Community scored 10 first-inning runs and completed a 16-5 win over Lincoln in 4½ innings in the first game of the Michael Collins Invitational.
"I thought we had great at-bats," Ironmen coach Ryan Short said. "I thought Brendan (Short) and Jake (Jacek) both forced contact, kept the game going and didn't walk people."
The younger Short (2-0) picked up the victory while working 3⅓ innings. Jacek covered the final 1⅔ as NCHS improved to 16-3.
Griffin McCluskey's two hits included an inside the park solo home run in the third. McCluskey finished with four RBIs, Caleb Zbrozek three and Nick Gilhaus two.
"We're swinging the bats pretty well right now," said McCluskey. "Everybody in the lineup can put the bat on the ball and get on base."
Drew Singleton and Justin Long each had two of Lincoln's five hits.
The teams combined for 11 errors on a blustery day.
"It's not easy to catch fly balls at the Corn Crib with the wind blowing like this," Coach Short said. "Such is life. A couple of those were hit pretty high."