06/24/2022 6:52 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 23, 2022 – On a night where the Northwest Indiana Oilmen offense received contributions up and down the lineup, it was a rookie and a seasoned veteran who shined the brightest.
College graduate Chris Baker (Trinity Christian / South Holland, Ill.) tied an Oilmen single-game record with five hits, while recent high school graduate Kyle Tyler (Valparaiso / Alsip, Ill.) was on base five times as the Oilmen dispatched the Chicago American Giants 16-6 on Thursday in front of a large crowd on 46394 Night at Oil City Stadium.
Baker tripled to deep right in the first before adding singles in the second, third, fifth and seventh. He had a chance for an Oilmen-record sixth hit but struck out to end the seventh as the Oilmen sent 12 men to the plate in a seven-run inning.
“It’s been so great to have Chris here,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “That’s the vision of the league now; those guys who are working to get opportunities to play at the next level find this invaluable. Hopefully next week, Chris will have things go well at a workout for a professional team, and if it weren’t for his time figuring things out at the plate here, he wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity. It’s been great for him that we’ve been able to give him that chance, and in turn he’s been able to help our younger guys. Our best hitter is our best mentor.”
Tyler was on base all day, hustling out a shallow double in the second before ripping a double to deep left in the third. He added walks in the fifth and seventh before singling the second time he came to the plate in the seventh inning. He scored four runs as part of a prosperous day at the dish.
“I think he’s getting a little more comfortable with the team and the guys,” Enright said. “He’s a completely different baseball player than what we saw the first day he was with the team. We knew the tools and the ability were there, and he has the ability to do some things that are pretty special. It’s nice that he’s doing some positive things to help the team win and help himself build a little bit of confidence.”
Those contributions helped the Oilmen finish with 16 runs on 13 hits. They had eight hits including five extra-base knocks in the first three innings alone and plated three runs in each of the first two frames. The Oilmen scored in six of their eight at-bats including the seven-run seventh that transformed a three-run game into a blowout.
“We’re seeing a lot more squared up baseballs when we get in those good counts where we can sit on hittable fastballs,” Enright said. “We’ve gotten to those counts and gotten ourselves into spots where we could do damage, and we would foul those pitches off or not do anything with them. The adjustment of wood bats and a different environment than their college and high school seasons has happened.”
The Giants (3-14) didn’t score until the sixth, when they got back in the game with a four-run frame before adding two more in the seventh to temporarily reduce the lead to three. They were stymied in the early going by the right arm of CJ Byrdak (Iowa Central CC / Homer Glen, Ill.), who fired four shutout innings while scattering four hits and three walks.
“CJ has been tremendous in all three outings that he’s had,” Enright said. “He pitched around an error in the fourth that extended that inning and he had to throw a lot of pitches, so that didn’t allow him to throw another inning, but for him to go four zeros at the beginning of the game allowed our offense to play much more aggressively, especially on the bases. Doing what he did on the mound, throwing strikes and commanding multiple pitches for strikes, keeping their hitters off balance and keeping the game moving quickly, let us do a lot more offensively.”
The Oilmen (12-10) will look to reach a season high watermark of three games over .500 on Friday night as the Southland Vikings make their first trip of the season to Oil City Stadium. The game will get going at 7:10 p.m. with tickets available on NWIOilmen.com for Hispanic Heritage Night. Those who cannot attend can view the contest on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network (AM 1230 WJOB, Region Sports, JED-TV and Facebook Live) with Brandon Vickrey and Cavan Malayter on the call.