06/24/2016 10:59 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 24, 2016 – It was scheduled to be an off day for Tommy Szczasny, but the Oilmen infielder is always ready to hit when called upon.
Szczasny (Northern Illinois / Frankfort, Ill.) did not see the diamond until being utilized as a pinch runner with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a 6-6 deadlock with the DuPage County Hounds on Friday. When he made his first plate appearance with the winning run at third in the bottom of the 11th, he was ready.
The incoming NIU freshman sent the fans home happy by roping a single to right that plated Tyler Sroczynski and gave the Oilmen their first walk-off win of the year. In the process, the 7-6 victory snapped a three-game losing streak and pulled the Oilmen back to within a game of .500.
“The guy can just flat out hit,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said of Szczasny. “Once he figures out defense at the college level, he’s going to be something special. Rarely does he get jammed. He’s always ready to put his best swing on it. You love having guys like that on your bench with an off day, because you can insert him into any situation you want.”
Any win is important in a congested Midwest Collegiate League playoff race, but this one held extra significance for a scuffling Oilmen team. Defensive lapses reared their head at times over the course of the game, but this time the Oilmen were able to persevere.
“Guys were positive the whole time, even seeing the broken record where we make mistakes and they end up getting a big hit to capitalize on them,” Enright said.
The Oilmen (10-11) found themselves entering Game 21 of the season two games under .500 and on the outside looking in of the MCL Playoff race. Friday’s win over perennial league power DuPage seemed to be one that could turn the tide back in NWI’s favor.
“It’s exciting to win a game on a walk off any time, especially against a team that’s doing pretty well and is in front of us in the standings,” Enright said. “We need that momentum to carry over as we play the next eight days in a row.”
Hunter Clark (Eastern Illinois / Granger, Ind.) improved to 1-0 on the season by recording a well-earned win with four scoreless innings of relief. He issued two walks and two hits while striking out two in an outing that kept the Oilmen in the game. Clark has not allowed an earned run in 11 innings of work this season.
Bryan Bund (0-2) took the loss after coming on to pitch the bottom of the 11th for the Hounds (12-10). He issued a leadoff walk to Tyler Sroczynski before Chase Dawson laid down a bunt single to set up Szczasny’s heroics.
Oilmen starting pitcher Richard Yelnick (Parkland / Trinity Christian / New Lenox, Ill.) went five innings and yielded three runs (two earned) on three hits and four walks while striking out five.
The game went back-and-forth, with each team scoring one in the first and two in the third before the Oilmen built a three run lead with two in the fifth and one in the sixth. That NWI cushion was erased in the top of the seventh, when the Hounds touched Eric Frontzak for three to level the score.
The Oilmen missed out on their first two opportunities to walk off, including leaving the winning run at third in the bottom of the 10th, but they needed to see only eight pitches in the 11th to earn the win.
Dawson (Valparaiso / Chesterton, Ind.) went 4-for-6 including an RBI triple in the fifth and a run-scoring single in the sixth. His four-hit performance was his best with the Oilmen. Sroczynski and Marshawn Taylor (Grambling State / Chicago, Ill.) had two hits apiece.
The Oilmen will host the Southland Vikings on Saturday at 7:20 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. Jimmy Saar band will perform a pregame concert at 6 p.m. as part of Country Saturday night at the ballpark. Tickets are available now on NWIOilmen.com.