07/09/2022 7:32 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 9, 2022 – Word to the wise: If the Northwest Indiana Oilmen are trailing through eight and a half innings at Oil City Stadium, don’t go anywhere.
An Oilmen team that has developed a flair for the dramatic pulled another rabbit out of the hat on Friday night, rallying for four in the bottom of the ninth to walk off with a 10-9 victory over the Southland Vikings.
Jason Hodges (John A. Logan / Park Forest, Ill.) hit a chopper to the right side of the infield with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, helping the Oilmen earn their fifth walk-off win in 15 home games this season. Five of their nine home wins have come in a walk-off manner.
“Any time you have a chance to be within striking distance in the ninth inning and string good at-bats together for the first time in the game, it’s exciting,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “For us to get a few consecutive hits was refreshing.”
The Oilmen found a way to win despite having just two hits in the first six innings and four in the first eight frames. The Vikings jumped in front with two in the first before the Oilmen leveled the score thanks to four free passes in the second inning leading to two runs in an inning that started with two outs and nobody on base. The Vikings regained the lead with two in the third, and the Oilmen got one in the bottom of the inning on a Khyle Radcliffe (John A. Logan / Chicago, Ill.) RBI single to make it 4-3 through three.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth, when the Oilmen jumped ahead with three runs on no hits. NWI drew three walks in the inning and was also the beneficiary of a pair of dropped third strikes. The Vikings took the lead right back with four in the seventh and one in the eighth, carrying a 9-6 edge to the ninth. Seven straight Oilmen reached in the bottom of the ninth as they rallied for four without committing an out.
After Jake Ostrowski (Trinity Christian / Lockport, Ill.) exited through three innings, Nate Thomas (Northern Illinois / South Bend, Ind.) logged three shutout frames while yielding two hits and recording six strikeouts.
“The most important thing that happened today was Nate Thomas’ three zeros in the fourth through the sixth,” Enright said. “Jake Ostrowski came out and didn’t have it. He was shaky, but he did what he could for three innings to limit the damage. For Nate to come in and not only put up three zeros, but also not let that lineup turn over an extra time for them to get more at-bats, that was the most important thing that kept the game close.”
While the Vikings ran out of pitching, the Oilmen displayed their bullpen depth, which was tested as an Oilmen starter went three innings or fewer for the fourth time in a seven-day period.
“Pitching depth is always the name of the game in July once you’re about 30 games in,” Enright said. “If you don’t have four or five serviceable arms every day to be ready to pitch, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have position players pitching, and that makes it hard to hold leads.”
Kyle Tyler (Valparaiso / Alsip, Ill.) led the way with three hits.
The Oilmen (18-14) and Vikings (17-12) will face off again on Saturday night at 6:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Night with tickets available now on NWIOilmen.com. For those who cannot attend, Brandon Vickrey and Cavan Malayter will call the action on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, available on AM 1230 WJOB, Facebook Live, JED-TV and Region Sports.