08/05/2021 10:46 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 5, 2021 – Matt Lelito (Kankakee CC / St. John, Ind.) was good, but Michael Kokoszka was just a touch better on Thursday night at Oil City Stadium.
Kokoszka, the Crestwood Panthers starting pitcher, tossed five innings of one-hit ball with seven strikeouts and one walk to help his team edge the Northwest Indiana Oilmen 3-2. The Oilmen played with a shorthanded lineup and are expected to get closer to full strength on Friday.
“We were missing some players in the lineup and had a few pitchers playing,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “To be able to come out and compete in a close game says a lot about our group. I couldn’t ask for much more. Their starter did a pretty good job; he was effectively wild. Being shorthanded today, it says a lot about us that we were able to go out there and compete. I’m super excited to get back out there the next two days with our regular lineup.”
Lelito fanned nine and issued just two walks while scattering four hits over six innings of two-run ball. His tough-luck loss caused the righty’s record to drop to 3-2. He finished the regular season with 56 strikeouts, second in Oilmen season-single history behind Jack Guzek’s 65 this season. Enrique Zamora’s 55 strikeouts in 2015 was the Oilmen single-season record at the start of the day on Wednesday, but by the time Thursday’s game concluded, Zamora had slipped to third on that list.
“Lelito did a great job,” Marik said. “Over his first three innings, he struggled with command a little bit. They weren’t on time for his fastball, so he threw it frequently late in his outing. When he’s out there, you know you’re going to get a good number of strikeouts.”
The Oilmen stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings as the Panthers jumped in front with single tallies in the second and third frames. The Oilmen offense eventually broke through in the sixth as Andrew Petsche (Purdue Northwest / Oswego, Ill.) came up with an RBI single, but NWI left men at first and third in that inning, missing a chance to tie the game.
The Panthers added an insurance run in the top of the seventh before the Oilmen got the run right back in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Nolan Lorenz (IU South Bend / LaPorte, Ind.). The Oilmen had the tying run in scoring position in the seventh and again in the ninth, but couldn’t cash in on an evening where 13 of the 14 combined hits between the two teams were singles.
Tom Conzemius (Quincy / Deerfield, Ill.) held Crestwood to one run over two innings of relief before Lorenz tossed a scoreless top of the ninth.
The Panthers (23-18) have a magic number of two (wins or Vikings losses) to clinch the No. 3 seed for next week’s MCL Playoffs. Crestwood has already wrapped up the first playoff berth in franchise history.
The Oilmen (23-11) need one more victory to clinch the MCL regular-season title. They will go head-to-head with second-place Joliet on Friday at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. It’s a $2 Miller Lite Pint Night and tickets will be available at the stadium box office prior to the contest. Brandon Vickrey and Kevin Redfern will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, available via Facebook Live.