07/23/2017 9:43 PM -
From the team’s inaugural season in 2012 to the end of the 2014 campaign, Justin Huisman amassed 82 wins as manager of the Northwest Indiana Oilmen. Adam Enright took over the team in 2015, and with a week left in his third season topped Huisman’s mark with his 83rd win Sunday night against the Crestwood Panthers.
The Oilmen played the Crestwood Panthers for the second straight day at Oil City Stadium Sunday, and took another easy win to end a perfect week of baseball for Northwest Indiana. As they had Saturday night, the Oilmen scored in the bottom of the first to take an early lead. Tyler Sroczynski led off the game with a single, and then stole second and third to put himself 90 feet away from a run. The steals were the 22nd and 23rd on the season for Sroczynski, which set a new single-season Oilmen record. Danny Torres later grounded out and scored Sroczynski without a play. The Oilmen led 1-0 after one inning.
The Oilmen offense was far from finished, though. The bats came alive in the next two innings against Crestwood starter Chad DeGroot. Sroczynski and Torres each hit two-RBI singles in the second, and in the third Sroczynski hit another RBI single before Chris Baker drove in a run of his own. NWI scored four and three in the second and third, respectively, and took an eight-run advantage into the second third of the game.
On the mound, Oilmen starter Max Franklin started another excellent defensive performance for Northwest Indiana. In three and two-thirds innings, Franklin gave up just two hits and one run (a solo home run in the fourth to Brent Feldner). The Panthers added three more runs in the game off of Oilmen relievers Eric Hammer, Caleb Matthews and Sam Geraci, but the NWI offense had already taken over by the time Crestwood’s bats got going.
After jumping out to its early lead, the Oilmen never led by less than six the rest of the way. Up 9-2 in the late innings, Northwest Indiana tagged on five more runs in the seventh and three in the eighth. Northwest Indiana scored 17 runs, the most of the season, and won the game by 13 runs.
“Our guys have played very inspired and very energetic baseball because they’re smart enough to see how the schedule is set up for us,” Manager Adam Enright said. “On paper, we’ve got the easiest road to the end of the regular season because Bloomington and DuPage run into each other so much. They’re going to play each other four times in these last eight days of the season while we play everybody else. On paper, that looks very taxing for both of those teams as far as having to exhaust their pitching and having to play a lot of stressful, close baseball games.”
The win brought the Oilmen to within half a game of the DuPage County Hounds for first place in the MCL standings. It was also the seventh win in a row for NWI, which ties a team record. The Oilmen play the DuPage County Hounds Tuesday, with the winner taking over first place in the standings in the last week of the regular season.
“We’ve done exactly what we need to to get to where we are,” Enright said. “I don’t think there’s much to do now except put the best lineup out there that we can and try to win that game. Pitching is right where we need it to be. We’re going to have everything set up in the week just how we want it to and everything’s gone according to plan so far. Hopefully, we can keep making good things happen and keep putting pressure on our opponents.”
Eric Hammer got his first win as an Oilmen in the blowout, while Chad DeGroot took the loss.
After winning his 83rd game as Oilmen manager, Coach Enright explained part of the reason why he and Huisman before him have had similar success with the team: putting player development first and making sure each player gets what he needs out of the summer.
“There’s a reason why we’re going to finish very close to each other in wins in three seasons of doing this,” Enright said. “Nothing really changed when he left and I took over as far as how we go about recruiting the team and making the lineup day-to-day and pitching. Same concepts, same results.”
The Oilmen and Hounds play Tuesday night at Oil City Stadium at 7:10 p.m. Tickets are available now at NWIOilmen.com.