07/15/2015 11:41 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 15, 2015 – Amid a slew of talent on the 2014 Oilmen pitching staff, it was easy to overlook Keith Mahler.
With Jimmy McNamara and Cameron Linck fronting the rotation, Danny Pobereyko enjoying a breakout summer and Midwest Collegiate League saves king Matt Pobereyko closing the door, there were plenty of other players to hog the spotlight a year ago. Mahler quietly went about his business, posting a 2.06 ERA and earning an All-Star appearance in the process.
This season, there really is little debating it.
Keith Mahler is the ace of the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
He got the ball from Adam Enright on opening day. He’ll likely get it again for a significant playoff game in two weeks. He also got it in Wednesday’s 8-4 win over Joliet, only this time out of the bullpen for the first time in his Oilmen career.
“(Coming out of the bullpen) was interesting,” Mahler said. “I’m used to it at Heartland during the spring. You take what you can get. If you’re going to get innings starting or relieving, you take innings no matter what.”
He was used out of the bullpen to help the Oilmen align their pitching rotation for the remainder of the season, and will be back in a starting role for the duration of the summer.
Mahler dominated the Admirals over five scoreless, hitless innings to pick up the win in relief of Brandon Murray. The only base runner against Mahler came on an error.
“He throws three pitches that you wouldn’t put in a category of spectacular,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “His sequences are the best I’ve seen in this league in the four years I’ve seen the league. Guys can never guess right on Keith and that’s just a testament to the way Keith thinks about pitching.”
Mahler improved to 4-0 and matched Jimmy Skiff for the team lead in wins. Murray departed with his team leading, but did not go the required five innings. He yielded four runs on five hits, two walks and two hit batters over four frames.
“He lights up the (radar) gun and his slider is out of this world, but he’s predictable,” Enright said. “All of the balls that got squared up and hit hard were fastballs in fastball counts, where guys are geared up for a fastball and are selling out for that.”
The Admirals led 3-0 and 4-1, but a five-run third inning for the Oilmen turned the tide of the game. Fred Smart, Joe Jumonville and Sam Geraci all had run-scoring singles to aid the rally. Smart and Brad Wood finished with two hits each.
There were eight total hit by pitches in the game, and Oilmen batters were hit with a pitch six different times. Joliet starter Brendan Miller left with discomfort in his back after allowing four runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Eric Littler (0-1) took the loss, giving up three runs on four hits in 3 2/3 relief innings.
The Oilmen remain three games behind the first-place Hounds, who defeated Michigan City on Wednesday. NWI (17-12) is now only ½ game behind the second-place Snipes. The Admirals (10-14) remain two games ahead of the Lakers for the fourth and final playoff spot.
The Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew and mascot Tommy Hawk will be at Oil City Stadium on Thursday to help celebrate First Responders Night. It’s a chance to recognize the Region’s hard-working police officers and firefighters. The first pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. as the Oilmen welcome the Southland Vikings.