No. 4 Sacred Heart-Griffin Fights Past No. 5 Normal University


By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

In a big Central State 8 matchup, No. 5 Normal University travelled to take on No. 4 Sacred Heart-Griffin on Tuesday afternoon. The Cyclones of Sacred Heart battled throughout and remained a perfect 8-0 in conference with a 7-4 win over Normal University. 

A three-run bottom of the third inning gave Sacred Heart (25-1) their first lead of the game and they never looked back. The first three batters of the inning reached base (only one via a hit) and all three eventually came around to score in the frame. After Isaiah Thompson scored on a passed ball to tie the game, Oklahoma commit Ramon Jimerson Jr. delivered the biggest swing of the inning, a line-drive to left-field that drove in two runs, giving SHG a 3-1 lead heading to the fourth. 

The Cyclones would go on to extend their lead to 5-1 with two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Senior Paul Gilmore hammered a one-out solo home run to left field for the first run of the inning and senior Louis Barletti (Quincy commit) drove in the second run of the inning on a deep double to right-center field. 

Normal University (23-3) would make it a 5-3 game again after the top of the sixth when they answered with two runs; one on a two-out, bases-loaded walk to Chase Adams and the other on an RBI single back up the middle by Notre Dame commit, Karson Bonaparte. Following Bonaparte’s run-scoring single, the Cyclones turned to shortstop Sam Antonacci to come in and close out the game. Antonacci, a Heartland CC commit, proceeded to pump 87-89 mph fastball (topped at 90 mph in the seventh) to get the final out of the sixth on a fly out to right field. 

Antonacci proceeded to add insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, drilling a double into the left-center field gap and coming around to score on a Nick Crowe RBI single back up the middle. Crow eventually scored the seventh and final run of the game for Sacred Heart on a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded.

Antonacci went back on the mound in the seventh and closed out the game giving up one run over his 1.1 innings pitched, scattering one hit, striking out one and did not walk a batter. 72% of Antonacci’s pitches landed for strikes. 

Early on it looked as though it could be Normal University’s day as they went up 1-0 on a deep solo home run to center field by junior outfielder Evan Jones. Their starter, junior Illinois commit RHP Jake Swartz had it going early on as well. Swartz was sitting a lively 89-92 mph (settled in at 87-90 the rest of the way) in his first inning of work and struck out the side in the second when he started mixing in a filthy swing-and-miss curveball at 78-81 mph (2500+ rpm). Consistent, quality at-bats by the Sacred Heart lineup however, was the difference, as they made Swartz work, throwing 95 pitches in his five innings of work, Despite striking out nine times, they drew five walks and collected five hits which led to five runs (only three earned for Swartz).

The Cyclones starter, senior RHP Brannan Kraft got the win. The Lincoln Land CC commit, worked behind an 81-84 mph and gained feel for his low-70’s breaking ball as the outing went on to keep the Pioneer offense at bay. Kraft ended up going 5.1 innings, scattering five hits, three runs, three walks and struck out five. 

Illinois State commit, senior MacCallan Conklin went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored in the loss. 

For more in-depth notes from the games - and all other games that we cover - visit the Illinois Scout Blog.

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