08/12/2021 11:41 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 12, 2021 – Game 1 was about a hero, but Game 2 was about a legend on Thursday night at Oil City Stadium.
A night after Aaron Cook (Roosevelt / Hammond, Ind.) delivered a heroic walk-off hit, Jack Guzek (Iowa / Manhattan, Ill.) earned the victory in his final Northwest Indiana Oilmen start as his team scored 10 runs in the first three innings on their way to a 12-4 triumph over the Southland Vikings. After securing a two-game sweep in the Midwest Collegiate League Semifinal Series, the Oilmen advance to take on the Joliet Generals in the MCL Championship Series beginning on Friday night.
“It’s very exciting to be in the championship series,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “I’m ready for tomorrow and the rest of the weekend, and I know our guys are too. It’s going to be a battle just like it always is against Joliet, and it’s going to be a really good series.”
For Guzek, Thursday’s start marked his final appearance in an Oilmen uniform after shattering franchise single-season (65) and career (145) strikeout records. He scattered nine hits and yielded four runs while striking out six in Thursday’s outing, putting the finishing touches on his three-year Oilmen career.
“It was awesome; I’ve had a lot of fun for the last three summers,” Guzek said. “I’ve enjoyed every coach I’ve had, Pop (owner Don Popravak) is awesome and the organization has always been really great to me. It’s sad that it’s over, but it’s good know how much fun I had playing here. Everyone around has always been awesome; it’s been a lot of fun.”
The first seven Oilmen batters of the game reached base including a monstrous grand slam by Alex Steinbach (Nova Southeastern / Plainfield, Ill.), a ball that sailed well over the “brick monster” in left field. That set the tone on a day filled with contact as only one Oilmen hitter struck out in the game.
“It was huge to set the tone early,” Marik said. “I could tell with how BP went that our guys were loose. I had a good feeling that we were going to come out strong right off the bat. Steinbach hit probably the farthest hit ball in the league this year. Coming back with another four spot in the second inning was huge. I thought we did a good job of putting baseballs in play and hitting the ball hard throughout the day.”
The Oilmen had the bases full with nobody out and four in the bank in the first and couldn’t tack on, then the Vikings responded on a Patrick Doran two-run shot in the bottom of the inning to slice the lead in half.
However, NWI poured on four more in the second including a two-run triple by Jacob Ferry (Morehead State / Aurora, Ill.) and an RBI double by Kevin McCormick (Evansville / Orland Park, Ill.). McCormick achieved three hits in the first three innings alone, adding a two-run double in the third that bolstered the Oilmen edge to 10-2.
“Long story short, the kid rakes,” Marik said when asked about McCormick. “He is someone who is going to find a lot of barrel. He doesn’t hit for a ton of juice yet, but he will as he grows into his body more in college. The kid can absolutely rake.”
McCormick’s three hits led a quintet of multi-hit performers that also featured Anthony Fumagalli (Purdue Northwest / Plainfield, Ill.), Ferry, Cook and Mike Carey (John A. Logan / Tinley Park, Ill.). Tom Conzemius (Quincy / Deerfield, Ill.) and Mason Kasprisin (St. Charles / Joliet, Ill.) both worked scoreless innings out of the Oilmen bullpen.
The Vikings put up single tallies in the sixth and seventh and the Oilmen did the same in the seventh and eighth as the early outburst proved to be in the difference in the series-clinching victory.
The Oilmen have defeated the Vikings in the MCL Semifinal Series in three of the last four years. The Oilmen nailed down their seventh MCL Championship Series appearances in the franchise’s 10-year history including a fourth straight trip to the league championship.
Now, the team will turn its attention to winning the squad’s fourth MCL title and first since 2018. The top-seeded Oilmen and second-seeded Joliet Generals will face off in a best-of-three series at Oil City Stadium that starts on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. and continues on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. If Game 3 is necessary, it will start at 5:10 p.m. on Sunday.
Friday will be a $2 Miller Lite Pint Night with pints available for the discounted price of $2 at the stadium concession stand. Tickets will be available at the stadium box office prior to the game. For those who cannot attend, Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, available via JED-TV and AM 1230 WJOB.