07/14/2017 11:10 AM -
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen had a 20-13 record going into Thursday’s game, but hadn’t had the same success against the Southland Vikings as the rest of the league. The Vikings had won five of the first seven matchups against the Oilmen this season, and NWI hoped to start its comeback when Southland visited Oil City Stadium Thursday.
The Oilmen jumped out to an early lead in the first inning. After the first two batters (Chase Dawson and Tyler Sroczynski) got on base, Amir Wright hit a single to center which scored both of them. The Vikings cut the lead in half in the third inning. Second baseman Trey Polewski doubled and scored Joe Curci, and the game stayed tight.
Oilmen starter Matt Garbacz gave up that lone run in four innings of work. He allowed five hits and struck out one to go with one walk.
The Oilmen took their biggest lead of the day in the bottom of the fifth. Chase Dawson and Amir Wright each got RBIs to start the scoring, and later in the inning Dashon Moore doubled to score Wright and Danny Torres. Heading into the second half of the game, the Oilmen led, 6-2. Christian Howell came in to pitch for the Oilmen, and threw the best outing of his season. Howell gave up two runs through the first four innings, with three strikeouts and five walks. Howell, who has struggled to find the strike zone all season, showed signs of returning to the level he was at in previous years.
“He had gotten enough outs to get through the game, we just didn’t make a couple of plays and we had to use Gard,” Coach Adam Enright said. “The second and third innings he was out there, we were seeing shades of old Christian Howell throwing hard and throwing strikes. He slowly and surely getting back to where he was the last couple of years.”
Rory Gard came in to finish the game in the ninth after Howell allowed a pair of Vikings to get on base. Gard gave up those runs and the Vikings cut the lead to one, but the Oilmen held the lead together and came away with a 6-5 win.
“Now, I think that we have really solidified roles and established what everyone brings to the team and what everyone’s going to be expected to do come playoff time,” Enright said after the game. “With 16 games left to go, they have the foresight to see where we’re going and what we’re trying to do. They’re all about winning games and really excited to figure out how to get it done every night.”
The Oilmen improve to 21-13 on the season, while Southland falls to 16-17. Matt Garbacz picked up the win for the Oilmen, while Vikings’ starter Chase Pearce took the loss. Rory Gard took a save after coming in in the ninth.
The Oilmen are back on the field Friday for a doubleheader with the Joliet Admirals. Game 1 is at 3 p.m. and Game 2 at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium.