08/06/2021 11:36 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 6, 2021 – It wasn’t exactly how they envisioned the clincher, but the bottom line is this: The Northwest Indiana Oilmen are Midwest Collegiate League regular-season champions for the second consecutive season and third time in franchise history.
A downpour in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 5-5 tie on Friday night at Oil City Stadium caused a suspended game between the Oilmen and second-place Joliet Generals, allowing the Oilmen to nail down the top seed for the upcoming MCL Playoffs. Since this is the final weekend of the regular season and there are no more head-to-head matchups between the two teams, the game will not be completed.
Joliet (24-14) pushed across two runs in the top of the ninth to snap a 3-3 deadlock and take a 5-3 lead, but the Oilmen (23-11) responded with two in the bottom of the ninth before the conditions became unplayable with the bases loaded, one out and the potential winning run at third.
“It was a super crazy situation to say the very least,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “Our bats somehow turned it on after we were down two. We barreled a couple balls and did a really good job of getting on base. The weather made it really tough, and obviously it’s extremely hard to throw a wet ball. Our hitters went out there with a plan and knew they had to get a pitch to drive. They did a good job of that all game. I haven’t been a part of anything like that before.
Kevin McCormick (Evansville / Orland Park, Ill.) ripped a run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth before Jason Hodges (John A. Logan / Park Forest, Ill.) worked a bases-loaded walk to score the tying run. The only prior Oilmen offense came in the third inning, when the hosts scored three times thanks to six walks.
Nick Heiden (Webster / Minooka, Ill.) delivered five innings of three-hit relief while striking out seven and walking none. He yielded two runs, but both were unearned.
“What a performance by Nick Heiden,” Marik said. “He pitched well. He gave up very limited free bases and hits. He did a great job. He’s very competitive. He went out there with an edge and a chip on his shoulder and performed the way we expected.”
The unusual ending seemed to be a fitting conclusion to an evenly-matched season series that saw the two squads splits the six matchups. Both teams had five runs on just four hits in a strange game that featured an even stranger finish. The Generals closed out the regular season on Friday night will play the No. 3 seed (Southland or Crestwood) on Tuesday at 4:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium to open up the postseason.
“The Generals are a team that is very scrappy,” Marik said. “They put balls in play and have competitive at-bats. You’ve got to be locked in to beat them. They are a good baseball team and they’re well run by their two coaches. It’s going to be super exciting in the playoffs. We have to make sure we get through the first round of playoffs before anything, but if we end up seeing them again, we know it’s going to be a really good series.”
The Oilmen will be back in action on Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium as the Southland Vikings come to town. The game will be carried on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network via JED-TV and AM 1230 WJOB with Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher on the call.