06/17/2016 9:59 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 17, 2016 – Through 15 games, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen were a team searching for an identity.
After a lackluster start on the road, a 4-2 home week that included several less-than-impressive victories and a stretch of 14 errors over three games, the Oilmen entered Thursday’s game against Bloomington is rocky waters.
After Friday’s 13-2 win over DuPage County, the mood around the team has quickly changed.
The Oilmen (9-8) are winners of four straight games, are above .500 for the first time all season and have outscored the top two teams in the league 30-3 over the last two nights.
“It’s as important as it gets,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “We were a team that could hit a little bit, but left a lot of baserunners and made a lot of errors. We were a team that wasn’t super scary.”
Now, the Oilmen seem to have everything clicking, and it all starts with the season-long theme of quality starting pitching. Clay Keltner (Cornerstrone / Highland, Ind.) was the latest Oilmen to turn in a strong outing, going five shutout frames while yielding six hits and two walks to notch the win and up his record to 2-1.
“To think that we’ve had the quality starts we’ve had and to think we’ve lost eight games so far is not something I would have bet on,” Enright said. “I don’t think there’s been one game where we’re not right in the game through five innings. The starting pitchers have shown up every day and done their part. Getting five or six quality innings from everyone has been pretty remarkable.”
The game was never competitive as the Oilmen busted out for five runs in the opening inning. They benefited from four walks issued by Hounds starter Chase Lowman, who lasted only 1 1/3 innings and was charged with nine runs (six earned) on five hits.
Lowman (3-2) took the loss after allowing more runs in 1 1/3 innings (9) than he had in his first 20 1/3 innings this season (7).
The five-run first was followed by a four-run second, which featured a two-run double by Zack Forney and two DuPage County errors.
Tommy Szczasny (Northern Illinois / Tinley Park, Ill.) ripped a run-scoring single in the first and clubbed a double in the second to continue his torrid start to the Midwest Collegiate League season.
Szczasny, who leads the team in batting average, has made the transition from high school to college baseball look easy after finishing his final prep season.
“He’s always barreling the ball up and pulling the ball to the right side,” Enright said. “He’s always making good contact, and he doesn’t swing at bad pitches. He’s never late on pitches.”
The Oilmen also received two hits apiece from Chris Baker (UIC / South Holland, Ill.) and Chase Dawson (Valparaiso / Chesterton, Ind.). Dane Toppel had three hits for the Hounds, who actually outhit the Oilmen 11-10.
The Oilmen will look to extend their winning streak to five on Saturday night at 7:20 p.m. at Oil City Stadium against the Southland Vikings. It’s Country Night at the ballpark as Hoosier Ditty Band performs on the field prior to the game for no additional charge. Arrive early to enjoy the show beginning at approximately 6:15.