06/02/2021 8:53 PM -
Hammond, Ind. – June 2, 2021 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen found themselves in position to capture an opening-day victory, but a four-run sixth inning for host Southland flipped the game on its head on Wednesday evening.
The Vikings used the crooked number to secure a come-from-behind 6-3 triumph at Dowling Park in Hammond.
“Even though we didn’t come up with a victory today, I could tell the guys went out there and played hard,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “The expectations are for our players to have fun, play hard and do things the right way. Today we did just that. The game didn’t go our way. There were some bloops that fell in. The Vikings had some timely hitting that produced runs. We hit the ball hard all over the yard, just right at guys. That’s baseball.”
The Oilmen (0-1) struck first in the third inning as AJ Wright (Norwood / Griffith, Ind.) singled and came around to score on an RBI bouncer by Jimmy Carey (St. Charles / Tinley Park, Ill.). The guests extended the lead in the fourth by capitalizing on three walks to the tune of two runs. Wright ripped a run-scoring single and Luke Montgomery (Purdue Northwest / Orland Park, Ill.) walked with the bases loaded.
Oilmen starter Matt Lelito (Kankakee CC / Merrillville, Ind.) put together a strong showing, exiting the game in position for the victory before eventually receiving no decision. The righty yielded just two hits over four scoreless innings while racking up six strikeouts and issuing just one walk.
“Lelito did a great job coming out and setting the tone for the arms,” Marik said. “Matt was excellent; I can’t ask for anything more out of a starting pitcher.”
Southland rallied against the Oilmen bullpen, scoring four times in the sixth before manufacturing a run without a base hit in the seventh and pushing across an unearned tally, also without the aid of a hit, in the eighth.
The Oilmen wasted no time in showcasing their baserunning prowess as the squad swiped four bags on opening day.
“I’m huge on putting pressure on the defense all of the time,” Marik said. “Two-strike hitting and putting the ball in play is important. We did OK with that today. Another part of that is running the bases, and as you could tell today, we’re going to be super aggressive. We have some guys who can run the bases well, and you can expect to see that every day.”
Southland reliever Noah Vlcek did not permit a hit over five scoreless innings while striking out six and walking three to earn the victory. All five Oilmen hits in the game were singles with two coming courtesy of Wright.
The Oilmen drop to 4-6 all-time in the first game of the season and 44-43 all-time against the Southland Vikings.
The Oilmen and Vikings (1-1) will face off again on Thursday with the first pitch slated for 5:05 p.m. at Dowling Park in Hammond. The game will be broadcast on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, which is available via Facebook Live, with Brandon Vickrey, Jack Theil and Leo Staudacher on the call.