08/02/2019 11:39 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 2, 2019 – A similar script had a different ending on Friday night at Oil City Stadium.
For the second consecutive evening, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen and DuPage County Hounds entered the ninth inning in a 5-5 tie, but this time it was the Hounds who pulled out a 7-6 victory and clinched a playoff berth.
The Oilmen pulled within a run in the bottom of the ninth and had the bases loaded with only one out, but back-to-back strikeouts allowed DuPage County to escape with the victory after scoring twice in the top of the ninth.
“We were just one hit away,” Tyrrell said. “Offensively, we had a pretty good approach, but we made some costly errors. With two outs, there were times where we didn’t knock balls down and it led to runs. Keeping the ball on the infield in those situations would have kept us out of trouble late.”
This is the third straight meeting between the Oilmen and Hounds that has been decided in the ninth inning. After the early season matchups were largely one-sided, three straight showdowns have been one-run affairs, rekindling a rivalry with the close games that longtime fans have come to expect when those two teams face off.
“We figured out how well they can hit fastballs and our pitchers have gotten better at locating other pitches,” Tyrrell said. “We’ve been working ahead rather than having to throw fastballs in fastball counts to those guys. They’re banged up just like we are, so they’re not as good as they were at the beginning of the season, but I think we’re better than we were at the beginning of the season, so we’re trending in the right direction.”
DuPage County jumped in front with a three spot in the top of the first, but Oilmen starting pitcher Mike Madura (Purdue Fort Wayne / Munster, Ind.) settled in and went six innings while allowing four runs on eight hits. He yielded just one walk and struck out seven. Justin Ruthrauff (South Suburban / Chicago, Ill.) permitted three runs (one earned) in three innings and was tagged with the defeat (0-3).
“Madura pitched well enough to pitch into the eighth, we just misplayed some balls behind him,” Tyrrell said. “He just kept throwing strikes and shoving, and that’s what he’s been doing all year. We had him on a pitch count because we want to have him ready for the playoffs, so we’re looking forward to that.”
In the bottom of the second, Tommy Farrell (UIC / Chicago, Ill.) attempted to tag and score from third on a fly ball to left, but was cut down on a close play at the plate for a double play. The very next inning also ended on a bang-bang play with DuPage County catcher Brandon Bannon on the other end of the play after being the one to tag Farrell out. Bannon was cut down on an unusual K-2-3-2 twin killing as he tried to score on the throw to first after a dropped third strike.
The Oilmen scored twice on a Ben Berenda (IU South Bend / Rensselaer, Ind.) base knock to cut the lead to one in the fifth. DuPage County responded with a sixth-inning run, but then Jake Plastiak (Wabash Valley / Tinley Park, Ill.) had a clutch two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at four.
The Hounds went right back in front with a run in the seventh, but Frank Napleton (St. Leo / La Grange, Ill.) unloaded a solo shot over the “Brick Monster” in left field to create a 5-5 stalemate. It stayed that way until the eventful ninth inning that saw the Hounds eke out the victory.
The Oilmen (21-18) and Hounds (20-19) are both locked into road series (Game 1&3 road, Game 2 home) in the first round of the playoffs, but the two teams are still battling with one another for third place in the MCL standings with two regular season games to play. The Oilmen will welcome the Crestwood Panthers to Oil City Stadium on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. for Union Night at the ballpark. For those who cannot attend, Brandon Vickrey and Jon Zaghloul will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, which is available via Facebook Live.