06/17/2018 9:55 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 17, 2018 – The deep hole that the Northwest Indiana Oilmen put themselves in with a slow start to the season is starting to become a distant memory.
The Oilmen extended their winning streak to five on Sunday afternoon at Oil City Stadium, whitewashing the Crestwood Panthers 8-0 in Game 1 before pulling out a 6-5 win in walk-off fashion in the second game.
The Oilmen (9-8) showed their resiliency to achieve the Game 2 win. They trailed 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth of a seven-inning game when a Nate Montgomery (Tusculum / Geneva, Ill.) home run moved the team a step closer.That solo shot was Montgomery’s league-leading fourth home run of the season, moving him into sole possession of second in franchise history for home runs in a single season (Tyler Sroczynski, 2016, 7). Montgomery was the offensive star of Game 2 with three hits and scored the winning run.
The Panthers (1-13) got that run right back in the top of the sixth, but the Oilmen responded with two to tie it on a Tyler Kenjic (Purdue Northwest / Hobart, Ind.) home run in the bottom of the sixth.
Crestwood grabbed the lead in a see-saw affair in the top of the seventh, but the Oilmen got two back in memorable fashion in the bottom of the frame as a throwing error on a ground ball to short plated a pair and ended the contest. The Oilmen were down to their final strike before eking out the victory.
“The thing that we’ve finally figured out about our team is that we don’t like to lose,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “Earlier in the season when we were losing games, I was still trying to figure out whether or not these guys are really competitive and want to win. It was hard to read them early because everyone was trying to figure out how things go in the summer, but this week has proven that our guys have pride and want to win. That’s what this week says about our team.”
The first game was a much cleaner victory for the Oilmen, who saw Christian Howell (Trinity Christian / Aurora, Ill.) improve to 3-0 with five shutout innings of two-hit ball and George Sherman (Dominican / Skokie, Ill.) do the rest with two scoreless frames. After the Oilmen had single tallies in each of the first two innings, a four-run fourth helped put the game away. Eric Yachinich (Minnesota Duluth / Ashland, Wis.) and Tom Kelley (Miami Ohio / Orland Park, Ill.) had two hits apiece in the opener.
A significant theme of the week for the Oilmen is the improvement of the pitching staff. Four hurlers combined to allow just one earned run over the seven innings in Sunday’s second game, with Connor Spear (UW Whitewater / Highland, Ind.) earning the win, his first decision of the season.
“We’re pitching to a more central part of the strike zone early in counts,” Enright said. “We’re understanding that our fastball at the bottom of the knee cap down the middle is going to be more effective than a fastball that you try to spot on the black that is mid-thigh or belt-high. If we’re having trouble missing off the corner, then we can work down toward the middle of the plate. That’s led to us getting more contact early.”
The Oilmen committed three errors, causing four of the five Crestwood runs to be unearned in Game 2. In addition, a mental mistake by the Oilmen defense led to the lone earned run.
“All of our pitchers did an outstanding job,” Enright said. “I don’t want our quality pitching to get overshadowed by us not playing defense behind them, especially when we have a staff day like we did in Chicago Heights and in the second game today. Our guys are battling to get better on the mound and they’ve achieved that, but they have to go out there and get five or six outs in an inning. That’s one thing we don’t want to have happen moving into next week.”
NWI climbed above .500 for the first time this season with the doubleheader sweep.
“That gives us one less thing to think about,” Enright said. “It wasn’t a big weight on our shoulders, but you hear guys talk about it. When you’re 3-8, there is that little bit of added pressure. In the past, we haven’t been in that spot too often. To be over .500 helps us put that out of sight and out of mind.”
The Oilmen are off on Monday before returning to the diamond on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Hap Bruno Field. The game can be seen on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network with Brandon Vickrey and Dan Harty on the call.