08/13/2020 8:42 AM
DuPage County Hounds (21-11)
at Northwest Indiana Oilmen (22-11)
Aug. 13, 2020 • 7:10 p.m. • Oil City Stadium • Whiting, Ind.
Broadcast: Oilmen Broadcasting Network (Facebook Live)
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen clinched a spot in the Midwest Collegiate League Championship Series on Tuesday and the DuPage County Hounds did so a day later, setting up the third championship series meeting between the two teams in the last five seasons. First, the two squads will duke it out in one final regular-season matchup on Thursday night, a game that will go a long way toward dictating the No. 1 seed and MCL regular-season crown.
Pitching Matchup – Northwest Indiana RHP Jack Guzek (Iowa / Manhattan, Ill.) vs. DuPage County RHP Andrew Padilla (Webster University / Burbank, Ill.)
- The Oilmen can clinch the 2020 MCL regular-season title with a win on Thursday. It would be just the second regular-season championship in the nine-year history of the team as the Oilmen previously won the regular-season crown in 2017. The Oilmen have finished either second or third in their other eight seasons.
- The Hounds are hoping to grab their fifth MCL regular season title. They control their own destiny as they can secure the No. 1 seed by winning each of their final two games. DuPage County previously won regular-season championships in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018. This will mark the sixth time in nine years that either the Oilmen or Hounds take the regular-season title with Southland (2014, 2019) and DeKalb County (2012) accounting for the others.
- The Hounds have recovered nicely from the worst season in franchise history as they finished under .500 in 2019 and made a first-round playoff exit at the hands of eventual MCL champion Bloomington.
- If the Hounds beat the Oilmen on Thursday, then the regular-season title would hinge on Friday’s results. The Oilmen would need to beat the Minutemen and hope Joliet upends DuPage County, otherwise the Hounds would take the regular-season championship.
- All three MCL Championship Series games (Saturday through Monday) will be played at Oil City Stadium, but last at-bats will be decided based on the regular-season standings. The first-place team will serve as the “home” team for Game 1 and Game 3 (if nec.), while the second-place team will serve as the “home” team for Game 2.
- The two teams have split the first three regular-season meetings right down the middle, so Thursday’s contest will also dictate the winner of the regular-season head-to-head. The Hounds lead the all-time series 41-39. The Oilmen will try to win the regular-season series over the Hounds for the first time since going 6-4 in 2017. The Oilmen won the regular-season series in 2012, 2015 and 2017, the Hounds won it in 2013, 2014 and 2019 and the two teams split in 2016 and 2018.
- Jack Guzek has a chance to shatter Enrique Zamora’s single-season Oilmen strikeout record on Thursday night. Guzek has 48 strikeouts entering his final start of the season, while Zamora finished the 2015 campaign with 55 punchouts. Last season, it appeared Johnny Vesevick was on the verge of breaking Zamora’s single-season record as he entered his final start with 50, but he left with shoulder pain after just two innings and finished with 53 strikeouts, two shy of Zamora’s mark.
- Guzek holds a 3-1 record and 4.45 ERA over seven starts while issuing just six walks in 32 1/3 innings. He has faced the Hounds twice, once working four shutout innings but most recently yielding eight earned runs on 12 hits in 4 1/3. He set a season-high in strikeouts with 11 in his last outing, during which he allowed one run on three hits over seven strong against the MCL Minutemen on Aug. 7.
- Andrew Padilla will face the Oilmen for the second time this summer after allowing one run on two hits in three innings of relief on July 16 at Oil City Stadium. He owns a 2.88 ERA for the season while walking eight and striking out 28 over 25 innings.
- The 2020 Oilmen roster features representatives from numerous Division-I institutions including the following conferences: Big 10, American, Ohio Valley Conference, Missouri Valley Conference, Horizon League, Mid-American Conference, Summit League and the ACC.
- The Big Ten is well represented on this year’s roster, with players from five different conference members on the squad – Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa.
- This marks the Oilmen’s first season under the direction of Chris Cunningham, who is the fourth manager in team history. Cunningham is no stranger to the MCL, as the former professional ballplayer in the Tampa Bay Rays organization managed the Southland Vikings from 2011-2014. In his final two seasons, the Vikings won back-to-back MCL championships.
- Oilmen legend Matt Pobereyko is serving as the team’s pitching coach this season. He racked up an MCL-record 18 career saves in 2013 and 2014 including a single-season MCL record 13 in his final campaign with the Oilmen. Pobereyko is an active professional pitcher and has reached as high as Triple-A.
- As usual, the Oilmen are loaded with local talent. Three Oilmen players graduated from Andrean High School, one from Highland, three from Griffith, one from Valparaiso, two from Munster and two from Lake Central. Expanding to Illinois high schools, two Oilmen competed at Brother Rice, one at Oak Forest, one at Marist, one at Marian Catholic, three at Homewood-Flossmoor, one at Carl Sandburg, one at St. Rita and one at St. Laurence.