The Region's Team Of Northwest Indiana


Howell’s best outing of season helps Oilmen best Lakers

06/15/2016 9:37 PM -

Whiting, Ind. – June 15, 2016 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen didn’t play flawless defense, they didn’t come through in every key moment and they didn’t slug their way to a win.

But what the Oilmen did do on Tuesday was win a baseball game, edging the Michigan City Lakers 4-3.

An imperfect game from an Oilmen team that committed four errors, allowed two unearned runs and stranded 11 on base featured the perfect ending, as the Oilmen made it back-to-back wins by nipping the rival Lakers.

It’s the team’s first one-run win of the year after the Oilmen previously held an 0-3 mark in games decided by one run.

“You like to be able to win close games, but you like to win close games that are close because you’re playing well against the other team,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “The only reason this one was close was we allowed it to be close. Execution offensively and hitting situationally was pretty poor. We could have tacked on three or four more runs in that game.”

The biggest bright spot of the day was once again the starting pitcher. Sam Geraci’s stellar Sunday start was followed by six innings of one-run, one-hit ball by Christian Howell (Minnesota State Mankato / Aurora, Ill.), who walked two and struck out four.

Howell, who notched the victory to improve to 2-0, threw just 79 pitches but was lifted after six because the Oilmen have a larger number of pitchers who need innings this week.

“I felt a lot better than last outing,” Howell said. “I felt like everything was there and I stayed quick to the plate, using my legs instead of trying to overthrow. I mixed all of my pitches well. I threw a couple good sliders early and brought in the changeup late.”

Although the right-hander trusts his bullpen, he said he “absolutely” wanted to stay in the game longer.

“I’m a competitor,” he said. “When you’ve got 80 pitches and a one-hitter, you always want to keep going. Always.”

The Oilmen have made four errors or more in each of the last three game.

Hunter Clark (Eastern Illinois / Granger, Ind.) nailed down his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth to protect a one-run lead.

“He was up for the eighth just in case things got messy,” Enright said. “We figured instead of getting him hot in the pen and then sitting him back down and getting (closer James) Whiteman up, we’d just go Clark. Hopefully Whiteman will be ready for the next save opportunity.”

Stefano Belmonte reached base three times and lashed three hits, one of which drove in a run with two outs in the first. Blake Cleveland (Central Michigan / Nappanee, Ind.) came through with a two-out single in the sixth to plate a run and extend the lead to 4-1, but the Lakers chipped away with unearned tallies in the seventh and eighth against Luke Jaksich.

Chase Fieldhouse (St. Joseph’s College / St. John, Ind.) went 2-for-2 and reached base in all four plate appearances.

Michigan City (3-8) had the tying run in scoring position with one out in the ninth, but Clark was able to record the final two outs.

Lakers starter Bobby Humphreys left after one inning with a pulled gluteus maximus muscle. Justin Stowe (0-1) allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits in five innings of relief to take the loss.

The Oilmen (7-8) will seek to extend their winning streak to three on Thursday at 7:20 p.m. against the Bloomington Bobcats. It’s Thirsty Thursday at the ballpark with $2 beers available at the stadium concession stand. Fans can play beer pong with tables and cups set up on the stadium concourse.