07/29/2018 1:56 PM
NWI Oilmen (0-0)
vs. Southland Vikings (0-0)
July 31, 2018 • 7:10 p.m. CT • Whiting, Ind.
Broadcast: Oilmen Broadcasting Network (Facebook Live)
NWI RHP Christian Howell (Trinity Christian / Aurora, Ill.) vs. Southland LHP Anthony Rogers (Concordia / Bolingbrook, Ill.)
The postseason begins on Tuesday as the Northwest Indiana Oilmen and Southland Vikings do battle in Game 1 of a best-of-three semifinal series. The Vikings will be the home team for Tuesday’s opening game, but all three contests will occur at Oil City Stadium. This will mark the first time the Oilmen and Vikings have faced off in postseason play since the 2013 MCL Championship Series, which was swept by eventual MCL champion Southland. The Vikings are the defending league champs and are looking to win consecutive league titles for the second time, as they also went back-to-back in 2013 and 2014. The Oilmen were 2016 league champions, but haven’t advanced behind the first round of the playoffs in either of the other two seasons under Adam Enright, dropping three-game sets with Lexington in 2015 and Bloomington in 2017. The first game in the series will be large, as the Oilmen have played nine playoff series in franchise history and all nine have resulted in the team that wins Game 1 going on to win the series.
Inside the Oilmen
The man on the mound is someone Oilmen fans will surely recognize – it’s the team’s all-time leader in career victories, strikeouts and innings pitched: Christian Howell. He gets the ball for what could be the final time at Oil City Stadium. There was little doubt the Oilmen would go with the veteran right-hander, who has been on the Oilmen pitching staff for four full seasons dating back to Adam Enright’s first year as manager in 2015. This will be Howell’s final summer with the Oilmen as he has just one year of college eligibility remaining. His final start of the regular season came against the Vikings on July 24 as he swallowed a tough-luck loss after permitting three runs on eight hits in six frames. The Oilmen set several significant club records on offense this season. Zaid Walker narrowly reached the minimum at-bats needed to qualify despite not playing the full season, so he has shattered the Oilmen record for single-season batting average by hitting .457. The previous mark was .402, set by Stefano Belmonte in 2016. Nick Figus shattered an on-base percentage record of .500 that had stood since 2012 (Cody Dykema and John Loeffler) by finishing at .510, while Nate Montgomery slugged seven home runs to match the record set by Tyler Sroczynski in 2016. As a team, the Oilmen set the franchise record for home runs with 23 and finished second in hits (433), batting average (.294), runs scored (322) and doubles (80).
Inside the Vikings
Southland has a history of postseason success as they Vikings have won the most MCL titles of any franchise with three – 2013, 2014 and 2017. The two teams facing off in this opening round series have combined to win five of the last six MCL championships. First-year manager Dave Letourneau’s squad will take the field first in back of ace left-hander Anthony Rogers on Tuesday. Rogers finished the regular season with a perfect 5-0 record and a 3.06 ERA while racking up 52 strikeouts in 50 innings.
About the Matchup
The Oilmen are 34-32 all-time against the Vikings and 0-2 in postseason play. The Oilmen and Vikings split this year’s regular season series 4-4 with Southland pulling away in the late innings to win this year’s final matchup 15-4 a week ago. That was the final defeat of the regular season for the Oilmen, who then rapped off three straight victories.
Click here to view full PDF Oilmen Game Notes.