07/30/2013 1:30 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 29, 2013 – For the Northwest Indiana Oilmen, the quest to repeat as Midwest Collegiate League champions that began on opening day will enter its second phase on Tuesday night at Oil City Stadium. The Oilmen host the Lexington Snipes in the opener of a best-of-three playoff series with a spot in the MCL Championship Series on the line.
The Oilmen finished in second place in the MCL regular season standings with a record of 21-13, while Lexington posted a 20-13 mark to capture third place. Northwest Indiana took four of the seven regular season meetings between the two teams, edging the Snipes 5-2 on July 22 after splitting the first six.
Lake Central graduate Jimmy McNamara is scheduled to start the series opener on Tuesday night at 7:10. McNamara led the NWI starting rotation with a sparkling ERA of 1.18 while posting a 4-0 record and striking out 35 in 45 and two-thirds innings of work. The Central Michigan University southpaw’s most recent outing was against the Snipes on July 22 when he allowed just one earned run over eight innings to pick up the win. In his only prior meeting with Lexington, McNamara tossed eight scoreless innings on June 20.
The Oilmen are 4-0 in postseason games in franchise history after sweeping DuPage County and DeKalb County on their way to the league title in their inaugural season. For the second straight year, NWI enters the postseason as the No. 2 seed after DeKalb won the MCL regular season title in 2012 and DuPage did so this year. However, finishing second in the standings allowed the Oilmen to clinch the MCL championship on their home field with a 6-2 victory over the Liners on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012.
The Oilmen scored 232 runs in the 2013 regular season, leading the MCL by a wide margin over second-place DuPage, which scored 163. Northwest Indiana’s team batting average of .283 also leads the league, as does its stolen base total of 105, well ahead of the next closest team, which was DuPage with 62.
Nick Bartolone, who established a new league-record with 37 RBIs in the record season, is a key cog in the Oilmen lineup. Jack Czeszewski, who set the MCL single-season record for bases on balls with 30, and Leiff Clarkson, who set the new league high for runs scored with 34, are also central contributors to the offense. Andrean graduate Kenny Mahala has been hot as of late after hitting his first home run of the season last week against Lexington.
The back end of the bullpen features a one-two local punch as Gavit’s Aveeno Nasiloski has locked down the eighth inning with a 0.84 ERA while closer Matt Pobereyko, a Bishop Noll alum, set the league record with five saves in the regular season.
The Lexington Snipes are in their first year in the MCL but have been in existence for over a decade. Manager Billy Dubois guided the team to a third place finish in the MCL standings. The Snipes strung together four straight victories to conclude the regular season, including a double header sweep of Rockford on Sunday, to snatch third place away from the Southland Vikings.
Left-handed pitcher Jacob Hendren found success against the Oilmen in the regular season, going 2-0 without allowing an earned run in 14 innings of work over two starts against NWI. Hendren last pitched on July 14 against the Oilmen but has been in the Lexington lineup as a position player on a regular basis. The Snipes’ strength is their pitching staff as a team ERA of 3.04 leads the league.
Eric Phillis and Valparaiso University’s Andy Burns are both power threats, launching four homers apiece during the regular season. Phillis led the Snipes with 22 RBIs and posted a batting average of .323. Jared Hendren, Jacob’s brother, is also a productive offensive player, hitting .284 in 25 games.
The winner of the series will advance to play the winner of the other semifinal series, which is between DuPage and Southland, beginning on Friday in the MCL Championship.
Game 1: Tuesday, July 30 at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. 7 p.m.
Game 2: Wednesday, July 31 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. 7 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Thursday, Aug. 1 at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. 7 p.m.