07/08/2021 11:50 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 8, 2021 – A one-of-a-kind ending provided the finishing touches on another victorious night for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
The first-place Oilmen fended off the second-place Joliet Generals 7-4 on Thursday night at Oil City Stadium, surviving a first-and-second, nobody out jam in the top of the ninth thanks to an unforgettable play that saw all three ninth-inning outs recorded in one fell swoop.
A hot shot through the center of the diamond was played skillfully by Oilmen second baseman Mike Carey (John A. Logan / Tinley Park, Ill.), who glove flipped to shortstop Daniel Gutierrez (Roosevelt / New Lenox, Ill.) for a force at second. Gutierrez bare-handed the shuffle from Carey and delivered a strong relay to first to complete a double play. The runner who started the play at second base took a wide turn around third, and the throw from the first baseman toward third was wild, causing the runner to try to score from third. Oilmen third baseman Kevin McCormick (Evansville / Orland Park, Ill.) chased down the ball and threw it to catcher Aaron Cook (Roosevelt / Hammond, Ind.) to cut down the runner trying to score, ending the game in the process. Three outs were recorded on the final play, although it was not officially a triple play due to the overthrow between the second and third outs.
“For a second I thought it was getting through, then I see it hit Mike Carey’s glove with a super light flip,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “Then you get Gutierrez with the spin-turn throw to get the runner at first. That alone was unbelievable, one of the better double plays I’ve ever seen in my life. Then you’ve got the overthrow at third because he took a huge turn, then Kevin McCormick picked it up, spun and threw it on the dot without even looking. I’ve never seen a play like that.”
An atypical ending capped a typical night for the Oilmen (13-5), who prevailed for the 10th time in their last 11 games. Jack Guzek (Iowa / Manhattan, Ill.) earned the victory to improve to 5-0. He has garnered the win in each of his five starts this summer. The ace of the Oilmen permitted eight hits over seven innings while allowing four runs (three earned). He struck out eight to climb into the MCL lead in strikeouts with 40 and has issued just one walk and no hit batters all season. Guzek has 120 career strikeouts, 21 behind Christian Howell’s Oilmen career record.
“Free bases win games,” Marik said. “When you’ve got a guy who doesn’t give up free bases, you have to like your chances. Teams are going to put balls in play or strike out, one of the two. He gave up seven hits in three innings, but after that he shut them down, it wasn’t even close. I feel pretty confident every time he’s on the mound.”
The Oilmen had to battle from behind as Joliet scored twice in the first inning, but NWI posted a four spot in the second to leapfrog ahead 4-2. The Generals got even with two runs in the third, but the Oilmen scored single tallies in each of the middle three innings to go up 7-4 before the final three frames featured exclusively goose eggs on both sides. The go-ahead run came on a two-out single by McCormick in the fourth before Casey Kmet (Notre Dame / Arlington Heights, Ill.) launched a solo shot to lead off the fifth.
“Casey is a very humble, laid back kid,” Marik said. “But when he gets on the field, he’s like a rabid dog. He runs around like crazy. He is a really good talent. He hits for power, has speed and has a good glove. He does everything you want out of a player. There’s a reason he’s at Notre Dame. Having him in the lineup, you feel like he’s going to produce, and that’s how I feel with every single guy on this roster.”
Tom Egan (Iowa Western / Chicago, Ill.) nailed down the save by pitching a scoreless ninth after Matt Lelito (Kankakee / St. John, Ind. / Andrean) struck out the side in an overpowering eighth inning. The Oilmen opened up a 2 ½ game lead over Joliet (11-8) for the top spot in the MCL standings with the victory.
“The coaching staff for the Generals, Joe (Silva) and Adam (O’Malley), do a great job over there,” Marik said. “They are a very solid team. Every time we play them, it’s going to be a dog fight. We didn’t play our best ball today, but to be two and a half games ahead of them right now is big.”
Kmet, Jacob Ferry (Morehead State / Aurora, Ill.) and Tommy Klco (Missouri Valley College / Bloomingdale, Ill.) finished with two hits apiece in the triumph.
NWI will continue the homestand on Friday at 7:10 p.m. against the Crestwood Panthers. It’s a Miller Lite Pint Night with Miller Lite pints available for the discounted price of $2 at the stadium concession stand. Tickets will be available at the gate. For those who cannot attend, Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, airing on AM 1230 WJOB and JED-TV.