06/18/2021 11:37 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 18, 2021 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen etched the latest memorable chapter in the Midwest Collegiate League’s oldest rivalry on Friday night at Oil City Stadium.
After surrendering four runs to cough up the lead in the top of the eighth, the Oilmen responded with a go-ahead, two-run single by Mike Carey (John A. Logan / Tinley Park, Ill.) in the bottom of the inning to beat the Southland Vikings 8-7.
“It shows a lot that we came back after giving up a four spot,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “We have confidence in our guys. Matt Lelito had a huge hit to start that inning, then AJ Wright added on to that. The minor thing that may go unnoticed was AJ advancing to second on the throw toward the plate on his hit because that allowed him to score on Carey’s hit in the gap. AJ advancing was a great baseball IQ play, and that led to the winning run.”
The Oilmen, who had three walk-off victories over the Vikings at Oil City Stadium a year ago, captured a one-run win for the second straight night. Carey’s game-winning hit was part of a two-hit, four-RBI game, while AJ Wright (Northwood / Griffith, Ind.) lashed a pair of hits, walked and scored twice.
The Oilmen (8-4) secured their fifth consecutive triumph thanks in part to the performance of Tom Egan (Iowa Western / Chicago, Ill.), who earned the win in his college-level debut by tossing 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief with two strikeouts. He caused the Vikings to strand a runner at third after entering in a precarious spot in the eighth inning, and eventually got the game-winning out as the Vikings (4-10) had the tying run in scoring position in the top of the ninth.
“Tom Egan has a lot of poise and confidence,” Marik said. “In his very first collegiate game, we put him in a high-leverage situation like that and he was able to respond. That takes some major courage.”
Southland attempted to score the tying run on a ground ball to short in the top of the ninth, but Anthony Fumagalli (Purdue Northwest / Plainfield, Ill.) made a decisive throw home to cut down Logan Anderson for the second out of the inning. The infield was playing in on the grass, but Anderson ran on contact in an effort to score the tying run.
The Oilmen jumped out to a 6-0 lead through four innings after a pair of three-run frames. Aaron Cook (Roosevelt / Hammond, Ind.) belted a two-run homer and Carey struck an RBI double in the second to start the scoring with a pair of key extra-base hits. The hosts scored three more in the fourth to double the lead.
“Extra-base hits are a lot more fun to watch,” Marik said. “Everybody loves extra-base knocks. The biggest thing in our offense is getting to second base. When you get to second base, your chance of scoring skyrockets. Being able to get some key doubles and hit the ball over the fence is good to see.”
The Vikings scored seven unanswered runs to take the lead, four of which came in the top of the eighth. A sacrifice fly by Nick McAllister plated the tying run before an E-9 caused the go-ahead tally to cross the dish on that same play.
The Oilmen continued to steal bases with regularity as the team swiped seven bags in the game including three steals from Zamaurion Hatcher (Michigan / Chicago, Ill.). NWI is now 47-of-50 (94 percent) in stolen-base attempts this season.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by the success we’re having on the bases because I know we have a lot of high baseball IQ guys,” Marik said. “You’ve got to applaud the team for seven steals. Our players have the green light when they get on base. We’ve done a really good job of that. That’s something you’re going to see all summer, we’re not going to stop running.”
The Oilmen handed Nolan Vlcek the loss despite his nine strikeouts against one walk over four innings of two-run, four-hit relief. The Vikings offense had seven hits, just one for extra bases.
“Vlcek is a really good arm,” Marik said. “He’s done well against us twice. Our hitters made some nice adjustments against his curveball and fastball late in the game. We started attacking curveballs above the belt and against a really good arm like that, that’s what we have to continue to do. We did a good job of being on time against his fastball later in the game.”
The Oilmen have matched their longest winning streak from last season. One more victory would give the team its longest winning streak since winning seven straight (including postseason) to close out the 2018 campaign, the final seven games under manager Adam Enright.
The same two teams will face off on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. Brandon Vickrey and Jack Theil will have the call on JED-TV and AM 1230 WJOB, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen Broadcasting Network. Tickets will be available at the gate.