07/02/2022 9:24 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 2, 2022 – Baseball was secondary on Friday night at Oil City Stadium.
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen fell 11-5 to the Lake County Corn Dogs, but the most important aspect of the evening was the team’s annual celebration of America and America’s pastime as the Independence Day Weekend kicked off with recognition of veterans and active duty military service men and women throughout Saturday’s contest.
“It’s cool because for that night, it’s not about us,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “Every other night, everything revolves around the Oilmen, but to be involved in something that helps you see the bigger scope of things that are important and things that we should be appreciative of is a great experience.”
Military Appreciation Night, which was sponsored by Northwest Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council, began with veteran Jim Kijewski presenting the lineup card during the pregame exchange. Serviceman Gregory Boyington and veteran Mike Wooden threw out ceremonial first pitches prior to the contest.
Deb and Paul Rosenwinkel of Indiana Fallen Heroes partnered with the Oilmen as part of the game and placards honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice were on display on the stadium concourse. Indiana Director of Public Relations for the American Legion Pat O’Donnell, Deb Rosenwinkel and Indiana District 12 State Representative Mike Andrade each joined Brandon Vickrey for an inning on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network. Steve Strains performed the National Anthem on his trumpet prior to the game and later played Taps in the middle of the fifth inning. The game was paused during the Seventh Inning Stretch for the playing of God Bless America.
The Corn Dogs (21-7) pushed across a run in the top of the first to take the lead, then added two more in the second. That second inning featured a very unusual play where Tyler Schultz hit a pop up in foul territory with the bases loaded, the Oilmen pitcher, first baseman and catcher all chased after the ball, pitcher Matt Lelito (Toledo / St. John, Ind.) dove and made an excellent catch, but home plate was left unoccupied and the runner from third tagged and tried to score. Lelito raced toward the plate and dove in an effort to tag the runner, but the runner was safe at the plate and the other two runners advanced to second and third. The strange play invoked an obscure scoring rule that a sacrifice fly must leave the infield, so Schultz did not receive a sac fly but was credited with an RBI.
“All three of the guys who went after the ball were right because all three of them could have potentially made that play,” Enright said. “Early on, it was hard to tell who was going to be able to get to it. What should have happened was the third baseman should have covered the plate because there’s nothing to do at third base unless the runner at third goes home. That should have been the rotation there, but Kyle (Czarnecki) isn’t a guy who plays a ton of third, and he’s learning the position, so that’s why he’s here is to get experience at that position. It’s a learning process.”
Lelito was shaken up on the play but remained in the game to finish the second inning. However, when he came out to warm up for the third, he was unable to continue, prompting the Oilmen to make an early pitching change.
“He tweaked his shoulder when he dove to make the tag play at the plate,” Enright said. “I don’t think that it is extremely serious because he was physically able to finish that inning, but hopefully when I follow up with him, I’m right about that. The last thing I want is to send someone back to college with an injury. This was a freak injury that you can’t really control based on the way that it happened, but I don’t want to see anyone with an injury in the summer.”
The Corn Dogs expanded the lead to seven by scoring four times in the top of the fourth, but the Oilmen responded with four of their own in the bottom of the inning. The Oilmen had no hits over the first three frames, but started the fourth with a string of six straight reaching base, a rally that started with a Jason Hodges (John A. Logan / Park Forest, Ill.) solo shot. NWI added a run on three hits in the fifth, totaling seven hits in the fourth and fifth innings while recording just one hit over the other seven frames.
“They were cruising along with a big lead, so they were pitching to the middle part of the plate because they didn’t want to walk guys,” Enright said. “The zone was pretty tight tonight, so they were challenging in the strike zone early with the lead, so we jumped on those pitches that they threw for strikes early in counts and got ourselves back in the game.”
The Corn Dogs scored twice in the fifth and added single tallies in the sixth and ninth innings. The Oilmen (15-13) will face a quick turnaround as they battle the Chicago American Giants on Saturday at noon at the KROC Center on Chicago’s south side. Leo Staudacher will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network.