07/02/2013 1:40 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 1, 2013 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen stormed from behind to defeat the United States Military All-Stars 9-6 in front of a capacity crowd on a night that was about more than just the final score. The barnstorming U.S. Military team attracted droves of enthusiastic supporters as it made its second annual trip to Oil City Stadium.
The patriotic pregame ceremony that took place on the field included the presentation of an American flag to Whiting resident Bill Palmer, who served the Army from 1972-1976. The purpose of the game was to recognize veterans, reserves and active military members and to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.
U.S. Military All-Stars player Chris Nollinger received the emotional honor of catching the ceremonial first pitch from his great uncle, Phil Bartolotta of Cresthill, Ill.
Sean Garrison of the Hammond Police Department performed a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.
“I thought it was amazing,” Oilmen pitcher Jimmy McNamara said. “I started to tear up a little bit during the anthem. I love live anthems and [Garrison] was amazing. I loved the whole opening ceremony, I loved the 9-11 patriotic song [that played when the game was stopped at 9:11]; the whole night was amazing.”
McNamara, a Lake Central High School product, was the winning pitcher, heaving two scoreless frames in relief. He compared pitching in front of the raucous crowd to working the high school state championship game in 2012.
“I love pitching in front of a crowd; it gets my adrenaline going,” he said. “I was dialed in. It was just really exciting.”
According to Oilmen general manager Jim Taipalus, over 1,500 tickets were sold for Monday’s game. Typically, the Oilmen stop selling tickets after 1,300, but Taipalus said he could not turn away any fans that came to see the incredible event.
U.S. Military All-Stars pitcher Frank Szczepanik, who stands at 7-feet, 2-inches tall, also soaked up the atmosphere. He said that playing in front of the crowd at Oil City Stadium was the highlight of the Red, White and Blue Tour so far.
“It was electric,” he said. “We were just excited to be here. Kids were in and out of the dugout, we were signing autographs. We were just happy to be here and happy that the Oilmen would have us.”
While a stunning fireworks display took place after the game, there were fireworks off the bats of both teams during the contest. Tyler Baar lofted a two-run shot to right field in the first to put the Oilmen on the scoreboard before J.C. Gil, Steve Seiter and Antonio Rice all went yard for the U.S. Military All-Stars. Bishop Noll graduate Danny Pobereyko, who was the starting pitcher, did not factor into the decision but worked five solid frames of one-run, five-hit ball.
John Schoberl was celebrating his one-year anniversary with the Military Team. He made his debut when the squad visited Oil City Stadium in 2012. Schoberl, a second lieutenant in the Marine Corp who just commissioned out of the U.S. Naval Academy, quickly learned that this team is about more than just a game.
“Every day, it’s the pregame ceremony with someone special that you’re recognizing,” Schoberl said. “It’s the opportunity to speak to a new person every day. It’s the experience of two months of traveling around the country.”
While the U.S. Military All-Stars head to Lexington to play another Midwest Collegiate League opponent in the Snipes, the Oilmen enjoy Tuesday off before a non-league road date with Michigan City on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The Oilmen make a three game road journey over the next five days before returning to Oil City Stadium on Sunday.