08/03/2016 10:40 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 3, 2016 – For the first time since 2013, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen are headed to the Midwest Collegiate League Championship Series.
The Oilmen used a hot start and an even better finish to dispatch the Joliet Admirals 14-6 on Wednesday night, securing their first postseason series victory in three years. The Oilmen swept the Admirals by winning back-to-back games in the best-of-three series.
“It’s gratifying,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “I thought last year’s team was the most talented team we’d ever had. To not get to the championship was a very sour pill to swallow. To get back there this year and represent the league in the championship is gratifying.”
The night started in dramatic fashion as Joliet’s Kendall King doubled to center in the top of the first, a ball that appeared it would score Brendan Brundage from first. However, the Oilmen executed a perfect relay as Chris Baker heaved it in to Stefano Belmonte, who gunned down Brundage at the dish with Jake Perreira applying the tag.
“The relay in the first was outstanding,” Enright said. “Our execution there was very good and the awareness of our infielders was good to be in the right spots and know the arm that Chris Baker has to be in the proper spot to receive that throw.”
The momentum from the inning-ending play carried into the dugout for the bottom of the first inning, when Tyler Sroczynski (Trinity Christian / Dyer, Ind.) greeted Joliet starter Tom Jeffries by belting a tape-measure leadoff home run over the left-field wall. Not to be outdone by his two-year Oilmen teammate, Stefano Belmonte pushed an opposite field long ball to right to make it 2-0.
The Oilmen weren’t done yet as they tacked on two more runs with a Tommy Szczasny double, Chris Baker RBI single and Chase Fieldhouse run-scoring double.
“That’s the signature of us,” Enright said. “We play long ball. Extra-base hits are the name of the game. Those are the ones that break it open and get everybody pumped up in the dugout.”
The Admirals chipped away with single tallies in the third, fourth and fifth innings against starting pitcher Jordan Petty (Purdue Northwest / Highland, Ind.). Petty, who received no decision, left after five innings and was charged with three runs on four hits while striking out six and walking five.
The Oilmen led 5-3 at the time of Petty’s departure after doubles by Chase Dawson (Valparaiso / Chesterton, Ind.) and Baker (South Suburban / South Holland, Ill.) produced a run in the fifth.
Richard Yelnick (Trintiy Christian / New Lenox, Ill.) came in for the sixth, but left without recording an out after a hit, walk and error. All three of those runs eventually came around to score.
Clay Keltner (Cornerstone / Highland, Ind.) came in and got out of the inning with only inherited runners scoring. He then pitched a clean seventh and eventually became the game’s winning pitcher.
“I think the swing point of the game was Clay Keltner throwing up that zero in the seventh,” Enright said. “For him to go out and shut the door in the seventh, his two innings were the difference in the game. At that point, there was a feel that it could have gone either way.”
The Oilmen batted around in both the sixth and seventh innings, scoring four times in the sixth to regain the lead and five more in the seventh to turn it into a rout.
Tyler Swiggart took the loss out of the bullpen for Joliet, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks in two innings.
The Oilmen overcame wobbly defense as they committed four errors in the game. They did so with loads of offense, as the team racked up 15 hits. Six different Oilmen had multi-hit games, led by Sroczynski with three. Baker, Fieldhouse and Perreira drove in three runs apiece.
The Oilmen advance to the MCL Championship Series against the DuPage County Hounds, which begins on Friday at 5 p.m. at the Lemont Sports Complex. Game 2 of the series will be on Saturday night at Oil City Stadium at 7:20 p.m.
The Oilmen and Hounds rivalry dates back to the first game in team history for both franchises on Opening Night 2012. A rivalry that has seen everything from dramatic finishes to a bench clearing altercation will add a new chapter, as the Oilmen and Hounds face off with an MCL title at stake for the first time.
“I think the Hounds were anticipating playing us last year,” Enright said. “We didn’t get it done against Lexington. They will be excited, and we’ll be excited too.”