06/16/2018 9:59 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 16, 2018 – A short-handed Northwest Indiana Oilmen pitching staff rose to the occasion on Saturday night at Oil City Stadium against a first-place offense that entered the evening averaging over 10 runs per game.
A DuPage County team that had won six straight games, held a 12-1 record, owned a team batting average of over .300 and had scored six runs or more in all 13 games was held to three runs on five hits, succumbing to the Oilmen 11-3.
“It feels good to beat a team that is beating everybody else, but what’s more important is the way we’re playing,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “No matter who we were playing tonight, for us to string another good game together on the mound while scoring a bunch of runs and making no errors, that is really big for us as we’re trying to put ourselves in a better situation record wise.”
The pitching matchup on paper seemed heavily slanted in favor of the Hounds, as DuPage County starter Jake Anderson had not allowed an earned run in 13 innings of work and held a 2-0 mark, while Oilmen starter Andrew Hancock (Evansville / New Lenox, Ill.) had only pitched against the Hounds and had given up five runs on six hits and five walks in 3 1/3 innings in his only outing of the season. Furthermore, the lone arm available out of the Oilmen bullpen was a limited Norman Standish (South Suburban / Highland, Ind.), who was only able to work one inning.
But on a night where everything seemed stacked against the Oilmen (7-8), the game unfolded in the complete opposite fashion. It started with a crooked number in the first inning for the third straight game, and ended with none other than Nick Figus (Illinois Wesleyan / Frankfort, Ill.) lifting a three-run double in the bottom of the seventh to break it wide open at 11-3.
Figus went 2-for-3 with four RBIs to extend his hitting streak to 11 and continue to widen his league lead in batting average. Nate Montgomery (Tusculum / Geneva, Ill.) and Cory Krolikowski (Minnesota Duluth / Bartlett, Ill.) also enjoyed their second straight multi-hit games, while Brandon Petkoff (Texas A&M Corpus Christi / Frankfort, Ill.) went 2-for-4 and reached base three times.
Hancock (1-0) picked up the win despite issuing seven walks over five innings as he gave up just two runs on three hits and struck out three. When the Oilmen starter exited, Standish threw a scoreless sixth on just nine pitches, his only inning of availability.
“Hancock is a very tall guy who comes from a very high arm slot,” Enright said. “It’s hard to square it up against him. You saw him miss a lot of barrels and get a lot of soft contact. When he was in the zone, he was getting a lot of uncomfortable swings. The conversation that we had was when you’ve got guys taking uncomfortable swings, you can put them away right there on 0-2.”
With the Oilmen out of arms, they trotted out a trio of position players as Hunter Thorn (Purdue Northwest / Portage, Ind.) allowed one run on two soft hits in the seventh, Figus put a zero on the board in the eighth and Tom Kelley (Miami Ohio / Orland Park, Ill.) retired the side in order in the ninth on just nine pitches.
“Those three guys just threw enough strikes,” Enright said. “We fortunately broke it open and we took the wind out of their sails. We were able to pour strikes in and get outs.”
Not to be lost in the shuffle on a day filled with positive storylines was the defense, which played one of its best games of the season and committed no errors.
“There’s nothing more important than us playing good defense,” Enright said. “We’ll be a team that walks a few guys per game a little bit more than we would like to. You can escape those innings and get away with free passes as long as you’re not giving away more free base runners with errors. Our defense helps our pitch counts as well, saving us 10-15 pitches in those innings where we’ve got to make some tough plays.”
The Oilmen will look to extend the winning streak as they host Crestwood for a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday. The two teams will face off in a pair of seven-inning contests.