07/25/2021 10:25 PM -
Lisle, Ill. – July 25, 2021 – TJ Marik spoke, and his team listened.
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen manager did his best to fire up a team that was trailing 6-0 and being held hitless through four innings in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon against the Joliet Generals. The Oilmen responded in a rousing manner, climbing from six runs down to prevail 15-8 in the opener before completing the sweep with a 7-2 victory in the nightcap at The Village of Lisle Sports Complex on the campus of Benedictine University.
“I brought everyone together in the dugout and gave them some motivation,” Marik said. “Our players took it and ran with it. They know that I’m a guy who stays calm and collected for the most part, so when they saw me aggravated with the way we were playing, they knew they had to turn it on. I’m really impressed with the way they took that motivation and performed on the field. We started putting the barrel on the ball after we had only one barrel over the first four innings.”
Both games were scheduled for seven innings, but the opener required extra innings as Joliet scratched out two runs in the seventh to create an 8-8 deadlock. Nick Heiden (Webster / Minooka, Ill.) was summoned from the Oilmen bullpen to get the final two outs of the bottom of the seventh, helping NWI get the game to extras. The Oilmen exploded for seven runs in the top of the eighth before Heiden worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth. He garnered the win, his first decision of the summer.
“The end of the game was a gutsy performance by everyone on the team,” Marik said. “Nick Heiden being able to come in and do what he did in a tough spot was huge. Nick is a guy where you know what you’re going to get every time he’s on the mound. He pounds the zone, throws his heavy sinker and throws his off speed for strikes. He did exactly what I thought he was going to do in that situation.”
The Oilmen delivered several clutch, two-out hits throughout the day including Casey Kmet’s (Notre Dame / Arlington Heights, Ill.) two-run single in the fifth to cap off a four-run frame. AJ Wright (Northwood / Griffith, Ind.) came through with a two-out, run-scoring double in the sixth, a three-run inning that saw the Oilmen take the lead on a bizarre play. Kevin McCormick (Evansville / Orland Park, Ill.) took ball four on a wild pitch, one run scored to tie the game as the ball got away, McCormick tried to advance to second and did so safely, and then the go-ahead run crossed the plate on the throw to second.
Jacob Ferry (Morehead State / Aurora, Ill.) ripped a two-run triple as part of the seventh-run eighth inning.
In the second game, Tom Egan (Iowa Western / Chicago, Ill.) tossed five innings of two-hit ball while yielding just one run (unearned), striking out seven and walking one. The right-hander earned the win to up his record to 3-0 and has not allowed an earned run in 12 1/3 innings this season. Egan set the tone early in his start by striking out the first five batters he faced.
“He was really good today,” Marik said. “He’s a guy who falls behind in counts and somehow battles back and gets balls put in play. Today, he was getting ahead in counts. You could see that from his strikeout numbers in his five innings. He was throwing all three pitches for strikes, which was huge.”
Hunter Keim (Saint Leo / Rockford, Ill.) tossed the final two innings and allowed one run on three hits while recording four strikeouts and walking none.
The Oilmen scored four times in the fourth inning in Game 2 to boost a 2-1 edge to 6-1. Zamaurion Hatcher (Michigan / Chicago, Ill.) delivered the big blow of the game, a bases-clearing triple in the aforementioned fourth frame.
AJ Wright (Northwood / Griffith, Ind.) enjoyed a big day at the dish, collecting four hits and scoring five runs over the two games.
The Oilmen (20-7) entered the day leading the second-place Generals (16-12) by 2 ½ games for the top spot in the Midwest Collegiate League, so the Oilmen sweep built the edge to 4 ½ while a sweep the other way would have cut the lead to ½ game.
“It feels good, but I’m not complacent, and I know our players aren’t either,” Marik said. “We don’t think 4 ½ is enough. The Generals are a very good team, and we have to keep it rolling to try to distance ourselves even more.”
The Oilmen will enjoy two days off before returning to the diamond on Wednesday by hosting the Crestwood Panthers at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, available on JED-TV and AM 1230 WJOB for all Oilmen home games. Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher will have the call.