07/11/2018 8:42 PM -
Bloomington, Ill. – July 11, 2018 – Several individuals shared the spotlight on Wednesday night at O’Neal Park, as the Northwest Indiana Oilmen pieced together a critical team win over Bloomington.
The Oilmen edged the Bobcats 7-5 in 10 innings, sending the hosts to their third straight extra-inning loss and in the process recorded their first victory in Bloomington this season. The win expanded the Oilmen lead to 2 ½ games over Bloomington for third in the MCL standings.
In the game’s early stages, it appeared Northwest Indiana’s season-long struggles in Bloomington would continue as a short-lived 1-0 Oilmen lead was quickly erased when the Bobcats plated four against starting pitcher Sawyer Allen (Hillsdale / Fair Oaks, Ind.). The four-run rally featured a go-ahead two-run homer by Garrett Shea, his fourth of the season, all against the Oilmen.
After that Allen locked down, as he played a key role in keeping the Oilmen in the game by allowing just the four runs (three earned) on four hits while walking four over six innings.
“He bared down for us after a few mistakes early in the game,” Oilmen acting manager Matt Vitulli said. “He settled in and pitched a very good game for us today. He didn’t let the score phase him, he just pitched.”
That bought the Oilmen time to slug their way back into the game. Jake Plastiak (Wichita State / Tinley Park, Ill.) ripped a home run for the second straight day, a two-run blow in the fifth to make it a 4-3 game. The home run was the 18th for the Oilmen this summer – allowing the 2018 Oilmen to establish the franchise record for home runs in a single season.
Nick Figus (Illinois Wesleyan / Frankfort, Ill.) had his second RBI single of the game in the sixth inning to tie the game at four, then Nate Montgomery (Tusculum / Geneva, Ill.) boosted his league lead in home runs to six courtesy of a go-ahead blast in the seventh inning that put NWI on top 5-4.
“It’s great that a few swings can get us back in the game with our power,” Vittuli said. “We don’t stress ourselves out when we’re down by three or four runs. It’s huge to know we have that ability late in games.”
With the Oilmen (19-16) back in front for the first time since the second inning, the first two Bobcats (15-17) reached against Allen to start the seventh. Connor Spear (UW Whitewater / Highland, Ind.) was handed a precarious spot as he was summoned from the bullpen with two on and nobody out. Pitching out of the ‘pen for the second straight day, Spear wiggled out of the jam with three straight outs, then went on to heave a scoreless eighth.
“Connor was huge today,” Vitulli said. “If he doesn’t get out of that inning, we’re not here talking about a win. He bridged us to Pedro, and that’s exactly what we asked for from him.”
Bloomington leveled the score at five with a run in the bottom of the ninth, but Pedro Rodriguez (Tusculum / Kissimmee, Fla.) kept the damage to one run and got the game to extras. A beauty of a bunt by Cory Krolikowski (Minnesota Duluth / Bartlett, Ill.) led to a throwing error by the Bobcats that scored the go-ahead run in the 10th. The Oilmen got one more, then Rodriguez tossed up a goose egg in the bottom of the inning to get the win and improve to 3-1.
Zaid Walker (Michigan State / Flossmoor, Ill.) continued to crush Bobcat pitching, as he went 4-for-5. Montgomery busted out of a brief slump and finished with three hits.
The Oilmen will play a single game on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Hap Bruno Field against the Southland Vikings. The contest will be carried on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network via Facebook Live with Brandon Vickrey and Dan Harty on the call.