06/09/2021 11:48 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 9, 2021 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen took their first lead of the game with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, but the Joliet Generals had the last laugh in a seesaw battle between two of the Midwest Collegiate League’s top teams.
The Generals pushed across three runs in the top of the ninth to earn a 9-7 victory at Oil City Stadium on a wacky Wednesday in Whiting in a game the featured no shortage of tense moments.
“I’m someone who always stays calm and collected,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “Obviously, a lot didn’t go our way, but you can’t really show emotion when things don’t go your way as a coach because if you start showing emotional, your team will do the same. It was a great game and emotions were high, but I’m someone who likes to stay calm and collected because I know that goes a long way.”
Joliet leadoff hitter Ryan Kiolbassa recorded the go-ahead, two-run single in the top of the ninth to help the Generals (5-2) leapfrog back in front at 8-7. The second runner was nearly gunned down at the plate, but the throw skipped away and Kiolbassa advanced all the way to third on the play. He scored on an RBI single a moment later to account for the final margin.
Prior to the Kiolbassa single, the Oilmen nearly cut down a runner attempting to go from first to third on a single to left, but the NWI third baseman was ruled to have not applied the tag on a close play at third where the ball beat runner Joseph Virruso, who scored the tying run on the Kiolbassa base hit.
The Generals plated two in the second inning to start the scoring, then the Oilmen (3-2) got one back in the third as Luke Montgomery (Purdue Northwest / Orland Park, Ill.) hustled out a double, swiped third and scored on a ground ball. Single tallies in the fourth and fifth innings helped the guests extend the lead to three, but the Oilmen again sliced to within a run in the bottom of the fifth when they scored twice on RBI hits by Christian Williams (Michigan State / Carmel, Ind.) and Colin Bruce (Black Hawk / Naperville, Ill.).
It remained 4-3 Joliet until the seventh and eighth innings, when the Generals scored one run in each frame to again pad the cushion. However, the Oilmen got back to within a run on a pair of sacrifice flies that made it 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth. That set up one of the game’s many bizarre plays when a slow dribbler off the bat of Jacob Ferry (Morehead State / Aurora, Ill.) was fielded by the catcher along the first base line in front of home plate and the catcher’s throw hit Ferry and deflected away to allow two runs to score as the Oilmen grabbed their first lead of the game, which proved to be short-lived.
“We did not play great today; everybody in the park knows that,” Marik said. “These guys have heart. They came out and played extremely hard until the very last pitch. As you can see, it felt like we were down by way more than we were, but we came back to take the lead going into the ninth.”
Joliet starter Jack Bell received no decision despite striking out nine and issuing just two walks over five innings of three-run, five-hit ball.
“Bell did a tremendous job,” Marik said. “With two strikes, he was not afraid to pitch on the inner half. His fastball had a little bit of run. That kid had a really good day today, so you’ve got to tip your cap.”
The Oilmen issued nine walks and hit a batter with each of their first three pitchers walking three. Tom Conzemius (Quincy / Deerfield, Ill.) came in after the damage was done in the top of the ninth and retired all three men he faced.
“Throwing strikes is the most important thing in baseball,” Marik said. “When you don’t throw strikes, there are going to be runners on base and there’s a higher chance of people scoring. Throwing strikes is the name of the game, and that’s something we did not do today. We were not competitive in the zone, especially early in the game.”
Zamaurion Hatcher (Michigan / Chicago, Ill.) collected two hits for the hosts on a night where the Generals outhit the Oilmen 13-8.
The Oilmen will face a quick turnaround as they host the Crestwood Panthers at 11:10 a.m. on Thursday. The game will be broadcast on JED TV and AM 1230 WJOB with Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher on the call. It’s Kids Day at the ballpark and tickets will be available at the stadium box office.