NORMAL — When it was announced afterwards that it was Normal West High School softball coach April Schermann's 40th birthday, her team burst out with a song Tuesday at Maxwell Park.
"We kind of went with it, like most things," said sophomore Kacie Quick of the off-key rendition of Happy Birthday during the post-game huddle. "It was fun."
The Wildcats could have given Schermann a little extra time to celebrate by run-ruling Unit 5 rival Normal Community. But the coach didn't mind staying around for a couple more innings as West cruised to a 10-2 victory in a nonconference game.
"We got to play more softball on my birthday," said Schermann. "That's how I'm choosing to look at it."
Schermann had plenty to be pleased about as the Wildcats improved to 15-3.
All but one spot in the order contributed at least one hit. Bailey Turner, Lindsay Rogers and Landes Benedict had two hits each.
Sophomore Rylee McGonigle (6-2) allowed five hits and two earned runs in picking up the win. She walked four and struck out five.
"When we went to Alabama (on spring break) our goal was to sharpen our axe, that's what we've been saying, and get mentally tougher," said McGonigle. "That's what I did and I came back sharper."
NCHS freshman Cadan Brinkman led off the second with a drive to straightaway center field for a homer. But McGonigle blanked the Iron (5-9) the rest of the way until Mackenzine Nelson's two-out single scored another run in the seventh.
"She looks comfortable out there," said Schermann of McGonigle. "She's trusting her pitches and trusting her team behind her."
Quick got West started offensively in the second. She drove a 2-1 pitch from Alison Kerns (3-5) just inside the foul pole in left field for a two-run homer.
It was Quick's third homer of the season, but first since the second game of the season.
"I felt my hands stay inside the ball and my legs went through it, and it felt amazing," she said.
That was the start of a six-run outburst which included big two-out hits from Jaxynn Dyson and Jess Jacobs which drove in two runs each.
Rogers' solo homer with one out in the third knocked out Kerns. Cassie Sprout's single scored Benedict for an 8-1 lead and two more runs scored on an error.
West loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Carsyn Barber got the final out to keep the game going.
NCHS coach Jeff Cole said he was glad the Iron "showed a little grit" and kept swinging away with the outcome decided. But he lamented that NCHS dealt itself such a big deficit early.
"Our mistakes seem to be expensive ones, and when you make expensive mistakes the bills have to get paid," he said. "It's things like a leadoff or one-out walk. Against this outfit, the bills are going to come due. They have a lot of weapons. They have a lot of speed and a lot of power."
NCHS entertains West next Tuesday in a game which will count in the Big 12 Conference standings.