08/05/2013 2:25 AM -
Flossmoor, Ill. – August 4, 2013 – Starting with the time the first pitch of the season was tossed out, parallels were drawn between the 2013 Northwest Indiana Oilmen and the 2012 squad that won the Midwest Collegiate League title in the team’s first year. The similarities ended on a Sunday night, as the Southland Vikings halted NWI’s repeat effort with a 4-1 victory to complete a sweep of the MCL Championship Series.
Southland lefty Chris Chigas tossed eight innings of shutout baseball, allowing just two hits while striking out 10. In his previous start, Chigas tossed six-innings and approximately 60 pitches before being removed with a no-hitter intact in game two of the semifinals on Wednesday night against DuPage. Southland manager Chris Cunningham removed Chigas with a no-hitter going in a lopsided game in order to save him for the MCL Championship Series.
“I just had everything working for me,” Chigas said of his outing against the Oilmen. “I was hitting the zone pretty good; keeping the ball down. I had all four pitches working for me. It just kept them off balance the whole way.”
The Vikings banged out 12 hits with Sean Beesley, Jeff Boehm and former Oilman John Livingston recording two each while Mark Munizzi led the team with three hits and two RBIs.
“They’re just a good team, period,” Oilmen manager Justin Huisman said. “Their starters did an outstanding job in the postseason and all summer. It was going to be who made the least amount of mistakes. They were low-scoring games, but we made too many mistakes in both games. We didn’t play well against a good team and you can’t do that.”
Lake Central graduate Jimmy McNamara allowed three runs, two of which were unearned, issued two walks and surrendered nine hits in seven innings. McNamara was making his first road start of the year after only appearing at Oil City Stadium during the regular season. Bishop Noll alum Aveeno Nasiloski was touched for an insurance tally in the eighth inning.
According to McNamara, saying goodbye to his summer teammates was even more difficult than losing the game to the Vikings.
“We played great, but mostly I made a whole lot of new friends,” McNamara said. “Just about every guy on this team I can call a friend now.”
In the fourth inning, Dan Potempa was called safe on a throw to the plate from second baseman Joe Houlihan. Potempa avoided the tag of catcher Ty Hogan in the judgment of home plate umpire Art Garcia. Both Huisman and McNamara put up an argument, disputing both the play at the plate and Garcia’s strike zone throughout the evening.
“Everybody has good nights and bad nights,” Huisman said. “In my opinion, it was a bad night [for the umpires]. I don’t know if that cost us the game; we had plenty of opportunities where we could have gotten big hits and it wouldn’t have been in his (Garcia’s) hands.”
The Vikings secured the final postseason qualifying spot by placing fourth in the regular season standings but swept both No. 1 DuPage and No. 2 Northwest Indiana en route to their first MCL title.
“It’s been four years and it definitely feels good, especially beating the Oilmen, one of the better teams in the league,” Southland manager Chris Cunningham said. “We got hot at the right time and had some really solid pitching down the stretch. I don’t think anybody wanted to see us. We played a lot of unbelievable defense in the postseason.”
According to Midwest Collegiate League Commissioner Don Popravak, the league has made tremendous strides from a talent and coaching perspective this season.
“This is the fourth year that we’ve been together as a league and each year we’ve asked the teams to try to go out and improve their club from a talent perspective,” Popravak said. “I saw some excellent competition this year for the Oilmen as well as the Vikings. I saw some really good, hard-nosed baseball played by some very talented young men, who I think have a future.”