08/01/2016 9:10 PM
Northwest Indiana Oilmen (0-0)
at Joliet Admirals (0-0)
*MCL Semifinal Series Game 1*
August 2, 2016 • 5 p.m. • Joliet, Ill.
Radio: AM 1230 WJOB, 104.7 FM (Join in Progress at 6 p.m.)
Online: NWIOilmen.com (Full Game)
NWI’s Christian Howell (Minnesota State Mankato / Aurora, Ill.) vs. Joliet’s Seth Rosenberg (Northern Kentucky / Niles, Ill.)
The postseason begins on Tuesday as the Oilmen visit Joliet for Game 1 of a best-of-three first-round series. From 2012-2014, all nine MCL playoff series were two-game sweeps. Last season was different as all three sets were extended to a decisive third game. In MCL history, there have been 16 playoff series and the team that has won Game 1 has gone on to win the series in 15 of those. The only team in league history to win the first game and go on to lose the series was the Admirals in last season’s first-round set with the Hounds. The Admirals are seeking their first appearance in the league finals since moving to Joliet. The franchise last played in the MCL Finals in 2011, then known as the Rockford Foresters. The Oilmen are attempting to win a postseason series for the first time since the first round in 2013, when they bounced the Snipes to advance to the finals against Southland.
Inside the Oilmen
The Oilmen finished the regular season in third place for the second time in franchise history. The last time they did not have home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs was 2014 against DuPage County, when they dropped both games. The Oilmen finished in second place in the regular season in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Oilmen manager Adam Enright referenced Christian Howell as the potential ace of the staff in a preseason interview, and that idea holds true over two months later as the second-year Oilmen right-hander gets the starting assignment for Game 1 of the postseason. Howell logged a team-most 50 2/3 innings during the regular season and went 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA. He led the team with 36 strikeouts but did issue 25 walks. Howell faced the Admirals just once, way back on May 29 when he pitched a seven-inning complete game and allowed five runs (one earned) on four hits and four walks to get the win, the first Oilmen victory of the season. Howell pitched out of the Oilmen bullpen in all three postseason games a year ago, logging a 2.57 ERA in seven innings. The Oilmen are led offensively by Tyler Sroczynski and Stefano Belmonte, who are most likely playing in their final week with the Oilmen as they enter their senior seasons. Sroczynski tied the league record with seven home runs this season, matched the Oilmen stolen base record with 22 and shattered the Oilmen runs scored record with 53. Sroczynski had the exact same number of hits (48) and doubles (12) as he had last season. Belmonte broke the Oilmen single-season batting average record and won the MCL batting crown by hitting .402.
Inside the Admirals
The Oilmen will face Joliet starting pitcher Seth Rosenberg in Tuesday’s playoff opener. Rosenberg is 3-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 44 innings over eight games, seven starts. Rosenberg ranks second on the team with 38 strikeouts and has issued just 14 bases on balls. He faced the Oilmen just once during the regular season, his most recent start on July 24. Rosenberg allowed six runs (three earned) on 11 hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. It was the most runs and hits he yielded in any start this season. The Oilmen saw first-hand on Sunday that it’s better to do damage in the first seven innings against the Admirals. Setup man Tyler Swiggart (2.48 ERA) and closer Jordan Miller (7-for-8 in save chances, 2.16 ERA) form the best backend combo in the MCL. Miller, a two-way player, reached base safely in all 42 games he played during the regular season. The Admirals are led offensively by Cody Grosse, who hit .394 with 22 RBIs in 35 games. Brendan Brundage and Brendan Krob shared the team lead in RBIs with 33 apiece.
About the Matchup
This marks the first time the two teams have met in a postseason game. The Oilmen won this year’s regular season series 6-5 and went 2-3 at Wayne L. King Junior Field. The Oilmen are 27-10 all-time against the Rockford/Joliet franchise.
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