06/16/2016 9:45 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 16, 2016 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen played nearly flawless baseball on Thursday night at Oil City Stadium.
After the first 15 games of the season were filled with ups and downs, Game 16 seemed to feature almost exclusively ups as the Oilmen put together their best performance of the year, smoking the first-place Bloomington Bobcats 17-1.
In the process, the Oilmen (8-8) improved to .500 for the first time all season.
The Oilmen established a new franchise record for margin of victory with the 16-run rout. They captured their first ever win against Bloomington after dropping the first four head-to-head meetings.
“It’s good to beat them any way you can,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “It was kind of a laugher, but close game or not it’s good to beat them so that later in the season you feel good late in a game against them because you know you’ve beaten them before.”
Starting pitcher Richard Yelnick (Parkland / Trinity Christian / New Lenox, Ill.) notched the win to move to 2-0 after heaving six shutout innings of three-hit ball. Yelnick racked up eight strikeouts and walked just one.
It was the third straight quality start by an Oilmen pitcher.
“It’s huge to put up some zeros and give our offense a chance with very little pressure,” Enright said. “When there’s no pressure on the offense to catch up or make up for errors, you’ll see big innings.”
After committing 14 errors over the previous three games, the Oilmen played flawless defense and did not commit an error on Thursday.
“That’s the most impressive number for us on that scoreboard,” Enright said. “Richard is a model guy that guys wants to play behind on the infield because his pace is so good. There’s not a lot of time between pitches; he throws a lot of strikes. He catches the ball on the mound and he’s ready to make the next pitch.”
The Oilmen enjoyed two separate seven-run innings, pouring in seven in the fourth and seven more in the seventh. They inched out to an early lead with two in the first and one in the second.
Bloomington’s only run came in the ninth against Braden Niksich (Illinois State / Hobart, Ind.), who earned his first save by virtue of three quality innings in relief to close out the game.
Tommy Szczasny (Northern Illinois / Tinley Park, Ill.) ripped a two-run triple in the fourth inning as part of a three-hit game. Chris Baker (UIC / South Holland, Ill.) went 3-for-4 and walked twice. Of the 13 Oilmen that played in the game, 12 reached base at least once.
Alex Nisle (St. Joseph’s College / St. John, Ind.) was on base in four of his five plate appearances, while Bo Fletcher (Alcorn State / Chicago, Ill.) stroked two singles out of the No. 9 spot in the batting order.
“It’s huge because one of our issues is that we’ve had trouble turning the lineup back over,” Enright said. “We have innings where the bottom of the lineup has non-productive at-bats where they don’t see many pitches and make early outs. Seeing the bottom of the order hit the ball is good.”
Bloomington starting pitcher Nick Brune (2-2) took the loss after allowing 10 earned runs on 12 hits and one walk over four innings. After Brune’s departure, the Bobcats had various position players pitch for the duration of the game to save arms.
The Bobcats (9-5) now lead DuPage by just ½ game for the top spot in the MCL standings. The Hounds will face the Oilmen on Friday at 7:20 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. It’s Bark in the Park Night to benefit Calumet Humane Society. Fans are encouraged to bring their furry friends out for a night of fun.