Welcome back, Normal West softball team.
The Wildcats came to Pekin on April 2 for a non-conference doubleheader against the Lady Dragons and dedication of Pekin’s new field.
Exactly eight weeks later, the two teams will meet on the same diamond. This time, the Class 4A Pekin Regional championship will be at stake.
First pitch is at 10 a.m. today for the game between No. 7 seed Pekin (15-18) and No. 2 seed Normal West (25-7).
The game was originally scheduled for 11 a.m. today, but moved back an hour because Normal West’s graduation ceremony is at 2 p.m. today at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.
Normal West buried Pekin 14-0 in the first game of the April doubleheader, which was stopped after five innings because of the run rule.
Wildcats pitcher Reganne Camp, a Seton Hall recruit, struck out 11 in a complete-game effort and allowed only one hit. Pekin didn’t help its cause with five errors.
The Lady Dragons won the nightcap 7-1, with each team substituting freely.
“They spanked us in the first game, but those games mean nothing, like having three numbers on a lottery ticket,” said Pekin coach Gigi MacIntosh. “That’s why we like the saying, ‘game doesn’t know who’s supposed to win.’ You have to play it out.”
Camp probably will get the start on the mound today for Normal West.
“She has great command of her pitches,” MacIntosh said. “We’re going to have to stick to our game plan and battle her.”
As for the Normal West batting order, “they have two lefty slappers at the top of their lineup,” MacIntosh said. “We have to keep them off the bases and not let their No. 3 hitter beat us.”
Fielding also will be important for the Lady Dragons.
“We can’t give them extra outs in an inning,” MacIntosh said.
MacIntosh called Normal West a storied softball program that features several players from the respected Bloomington Normal Girls Softball Association and is fed by a junior high softball program that has involvement from high school coaches.
“Normal West is hungry. I’m sure they want to take it to us because they haven’t been to the state finals like Normal Community, their sister school,” she said.
Pekin hasn’t won a regional championship in 16 years. The Lady Dragons gave themselves an opportunity to end the drought Wednesday when they stunned No. 3 seed Bradley-Bourbonnais 7-1 in the regional semifinals.
Winning pitcher Brittney Spiesz drove in the go-ahead runs with a two-out, bases-loaded single during the Lady Dragons’ seven-run surge in the top of the fifth inning.
Pekin had 13 hits in the game — 12 singles — and made just one meaningless error behind Spiesz.
MacIntosh plans to use the same lineup today.
“Obviously, we’re super excited about playing for a regional title. The icing on the cake is playing the game at our new home field,” she said. “We hope to have a great crowd there cheering on the Lady Dragons.”
Normal West beat No. 8 seed Danville 7-0 on Tuesday in its regional semifinal game.
The winner of today’s game will advance to the Normal Community Sectional and face the East Moline Regional champion next Tuesday in the sectional semifinals.
Champions from the Collinsville Regional and Edwardsville Regional also will be at Normal Community. The sectional championship game is June 4.