06/07/2016 8:01 AM
at Northwest Indiana Oilmen (2-6)
June 7, 2016 • 7:20 p.m. • Whiting, Ind.
Radio: WJOB (7 p.m. pregame) & NWIOilmen.com
NWI’s Christian Howell (Minnesota State Mankato / Aurora, Ill.) vs. Lakers' Bobby Humphreys (Chesterton, Ind.)
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen begin their fifth summer of baseball at Oil City Stadium with Tuesday’s home opener. The Oilmen are 2-2 all-time in home openers. They defeated Southland in the first ever Oilmen home game in 2012, fell to Lexington in 2013 and bested Lexington in 2014. In last season’s home opener, the Oilmen suffered a 7-6 loss to Joliet in 10 innings. The last time the Oilmen took the Oil City Stadium diamond, they lost 6-2 to Lexington in Game 3 of a 2015 Midwest Collegiate League first-round playoff series. Although they lost both playoff home games last season, the Oilmen carry a five-game regular season home winning streak into this season. Historically, the Oilmen have played their best baseball at Oil City Stadium. They own a .691 home winning percentage over the first four seasons of Oilmen baseball.
Inside the Oilmen
The Oilmen send Christian Howell to the mound for the home opener. Howell, who is back for his second season with the Oilmen after posting a 1.87 ERA over 52 1/3 innings a year ago, will make his second start of the year. He tossed seven innings, allowed five runs (one earned) and struck out six while walking four in the second game of a doubleheader against Joliet on May 29. He also received a tune-up inning of relief on Friday night at Bloomington, when he needed only 11 pitches to send down the Bobcats in order. Howell faced the Lakers three times last season and went 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA. Owning two wins against Michigan City is an impressive feat since the Oilmen beat them just three times all of last season. Stefano Belmonte is off to a red-hot start since joining the team. Including Saturday’s suspended game against Southland that does not yet official count in the statistics, Belmonte is hitting .727 in his first three games. As a team, the Oilmen hold a .257 average and 3.32 ERA. Their team ERA ranks second in the MCL, behind only the Bloomington Bobcats.
Inside the Lakers
The bulk of the Lakers’ roster returns from last season. The Lakers came on strong late in the year and pushed for a playoff spot in their first season in the Midwest Collegiate League. They narrowly missed a postseason berth, finishing fifth in the MCL at 13-25. The Lakers made an appearance in the NABF World Series. Starting pitcher Bobby Humprheys, a Chesterton graduate, was hit with the loss in his most recent game against the Oilmen on June 25, 2015. He allowed eight earned runs on 11 hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings.
About the Matchup
The Lakers were the only team in the Midwest Collegiate League that the Oilmen finished with a losing record against last season. In their first season in the league, the Lakers went 6-3 against the Oilmen. The two teams had met as non-league foes previously, so the Oilmen still lead the all-time series 10-9.
Around the League
The most eye-popping team statistic remains DuPage County’s stolen base clip. They are already 37-for-42 in the stolen base department. For comparison, the Lakers, Vikings, Oilmen and Bobcats have 25 stolen bases combined. DuPage’s Billy Hayes, the league-leader in steals with 10, has more steals than four entire teams: Oilmen (9), Vikings (8), Bobcats (5) and Lakers (3).
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