08/11/2021 10:54 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 11, 2021 – The successful history of the Northwest Indiana Oilmen is filled with signature postseason moments, but there had never been one quite like what transpired on Wednesday night at Oil City Stadium.
Aaron Cook (Roosevelt / Hammond, Ind.) delivered the first walk-off hit in a playoff game in franchise history, ripping one down the third-base line to drive in Jacob Ferry (Morehead State / Aurora, Ill.) from second in the bottom of the 10th, giving the Oilmen a 5-4 victory over rival Southland in Game 1 of the best-of-three MCL Semifinal Series. Ferry had ripped a double to deep left center that narrowly missed a walk-off home run a moment early.
“Ferry did a great job of keeping his front shoulder on that baseball and driving it to left-center,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “I thought that was gone. Him getting on base was the turning point of that inning. Aaron Cook swung the bat well all day and has a lot of confidence. He’s an older guy who has been in big situations before. He did exactly what Aaron Cook does, which is come up clutch and send a ball down the line. It was a pretty easy decision for me to send Jacob Ferry there. This was a great team win.”
The Oilmen rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning and had the potential winning run cut down at the plate before the game reached extra innings. Southland led 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2. The Oilmen came back to tie the game on three occasions and took their only lead of the night on the game’s final play.
“Our ability to battle back shows a lot,” Marik said. “Our guys have a lot of confidence right now. Confidence goes a long way in this game. We’ve got to keep that in mind going forward, especially tomorrow because Southland is a very good baseball team. They’re going to come out ready to play, and we’re going to come out the same way.”
Kevin McCormick (Evansville / Orland Park, Ill.), Anthony Fumagalli (Purdue Northwest / Plainfield, Ill.), Ferry and Cook had two hits apiece. Ferry doubled and scored on a Cook single in the second for the first Oilmen run of the night before the same sequence accounted for the fifth and final run. McCormick had an RBI single in the fifth, then the Oilmen got two in the bottom of the ninth on a drive to left by McCormick that the Southland left fielder did not corral.
“The intensity level was very high,” Marik said. “The players have built something this summer and jell really well together. You can see that by the way we were jumping up and down when we tied it and when we won the game. That culture isn’t going to change. That was really good to see as a coach.”
Oilmen starting pitcher Matt Lelito (Kankakee / St. John, Ind.) allowed two runs (one earned) while striking out eight and walking three over five frames. Brandon Laux (Kirkwood CC / Chicago, Ill.) permitted two runs (one earned) on two hits in his two innings, then Nick Miketinac (Butler / St. John, Ind.) went 2 2/3 scoreless while surrendering no hits and striking out five.
“Nick was huge,” Marik said. “Lelito started us off, then Laux did a nice job battling a lot of adversity. Miketinac is a guy who has done really well all summer as a starter and has transitioned to a relief role after his wrist injury. He continued to do a great job for us.”
Nick Heiden (Webster / Minooka, Ill.) inherited a two-out, two-on situation in the top of the 10th and induced a fly ball to escape the jam. He threw six pitches and recorded a key out to earn the win in relief.
“Nick is a guy who is going to challenge hitters,” Marik said. “He’s going to say, ‘Here’s my stuff, try to hit it. He did exactly that today. He did fall behind 3-1, but he attacked with the fastball and then on the 3-2 got a fly out, which was absolutely huge.”
The Oilmen will have a chance to clinch a spot in the MCL Championship Series for the seventh time in their 10-year existence by beating the Vikings in Game 2 of the series, which is slated for approximately 7:40 p.m. on Thursday night at Oil City Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network on AM 1230 WJOB and JED-TV with Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher on the call. The Oilmen will send Jack Guzek (Iowa / Manhattan, Ill.) to the mound on Thursday night.
The game will follow a 4:10 p.m. matchup between the Crestwood Panthers and Joliet Generals at Oil City Stadium. That is Game 3 between the Panthers and Generals with the winner advancing to the MCL Championship Series. Tickets will be available at the stadium ticket window.