Author: Adam Hipsky

The Normal Cornbelters (0-2, 0-1 Central Division) went into the top of the ninth holding a 9-7 advantage. Meanwhile, the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp (2-0, 1-0 Northwest Division) bats were looking for a jolt. Illinois Valley had tallied just one run over the course of the past six innings. After a pair of timely hits and heads-up baserunning, the visitors trailed by just one. 

Pistol Shrimp third basemen Kyle Gibson stepped to the dish and delivered a one-out RBI single to tie the game at nine. However, Cornbelter centerfielder Austin Wiegand lost the ball within the lights of the Corn Crib and Illinois Valley centerfielder Lucas Smith turned the corner to score the go-ahead run off of the Wiegand error.

That one run lead was all Illinois Valley needed to remain unblemished in its 2024 campaign. Normal went three-up three-down to cap off a dismal ninth inning. Jackson Peeler collected the win for the Pistol Shrimp with his impressive frame to shut the door on the Belters. 

The glaring issue in the Cornbelters opening day 5-1 loss to the Danville Dans was the approach at the plate. Normal struck out 16 times and walked just twice in the defeat. A turnaround was made in the box right out of the gate. 

Pistol Shrimp pitcher Kyler Miritello walked the first six batters he faced. The righthander was pulled from the contest before he recorded a singular out. Normal drew two more walks en route to a six-run first inning. Luckily for Pistol Shrimp manager John Jakiemec, the bullpen provided some much-needed stability for the Illinois Valley defense. 

The Belters threatened throughout the middle innings, in search of a few more insurance runs, but the scoring chances simmered. Normal left two runners on in four consecutive innings, starting in the fourth. The Cornbelters slashed a .167 average with runners in scoring position in tonight’s loss. 

Normal and Illinois Valley clash for the second time in as many days tonight in a home-and-home series. The Cornbelters remain in search of their first win of the young season. Meanwhile, the Pistol Shrimp attempt to extend its win streak to three. First pitch between the two intrastate squads is set for 7:05 CDT. 

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