08/07/2021 11:38 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 7, 2021 – The six-run eighth may have provided the final dagger, but it was a seventh-inning swing by Christian Williams (Michigan State / Carmel, Ind.) that flipped the game’s momentum.
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen catcher/outfielder launched his second home run of the year – a two-run, tape-measure job over the “brick monster” in left field – to give the Oilmen a 7-5 lead in an eventual 13-5 victory over visiting Southland on Saturday night at Oil City Stadium.
“Christian has been awesome the entire summer,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “Not only has he been a complete bulldog behind the plate – and in my opinion he’s one of the best defensive catchers in the league – but his offense has looked great. He has fresh legs after some time off, and you can tell in his swing. His approach is really confident right now.”
The victorious regular-season finale allowed the Oilmen to tie the franchise record for winning percentage set in 2020 as the team finished with an exact record of 24-11 for the second consecutive season.
After scoring three in the first, the Oilmen went silent offensively for the next three innings and fell behind as Southland scored twice in the second and three times in the fourth. NWI got back to even in the bottom of the fifth and had the potential go-ahead run cut down at the plate for the final out of the inning as a runner tried to score from second on a single to right by Kevin McCormick (Evansville / Orland Park, Ill.).
After starting pitcher Brandon Tyler (Grambling State / Hammond, Ind.) allowed five runs (four earned) over 3 1/3 innings, the bullpen was lights out. Nick Miketinac (Butler / St. John, Ind.), Tom Conzemius (Quincy / Deerfield, Ill.) and Mason Kasprisin (St. Charles / Joliet, Ill.) did not allow a hit while combining for 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
A two-run double by Alex Steinbach (Nova Southeastern / Plainfield, Ill.) highlighted a stretch of seven straight Oilmen reaching base in the eighth inning. Kevin McCormick (Evansville / Orland Park, Ill.) and Anthony Villarreal (Calumet College of St. Joseph / Highland, Ind.) led the way with three hits apiece, while Mike Carey (John A. Logan / Tinley Park, Ill.) and Williams also boasted multi-hit efforts.
“It was great to see us put together some big innings late in the game,” Marik said. “Early on we left runners in scoring position. We stayed calm and collected later in the game. In the eighth inning, we exploded, and that’s something Southland has done against us many times this season.”
The victory sets up a first-round playoff series between the Oilmen and Vikings (24-11) as the two teams will face off again on Tuesday night at approximately 7:40 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. All MCL Playoff games will take place in Whiting. Tickets will be available at the stadium ticket window. Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher will have the call of the Oilmen/Vikings series on AM 1230 WJOB and JED-TV.
The Vikings and Oilmen split the eight regular-season meetings and the Oilmen hold a narrow 48-46 lead in an evenly-matched all-time series.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” Marik said. “We’re .500 against them for a reason. It’s always a battle against them. The crowd is going to come out because we’re playing Southland and historically have a rivalry with the Vikings. It should be a fun atmosphere.”