06/29/2022 10:39 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 29, 2022 – CJ Byrdak (Iowa Central CC / Homer Glenn, Ill.) needed just two pitches to retire the first two batters in the opening inning.
That was a sign of things to come for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen starting pitcher on Wednesday night as the incoming college freshman worked an efficient six innings without allowing an earned run (two unearned) as the Oilmen returned to the win column by besting the Joliet Generals 6-3 at Oil City Stadium.
Byrdak walked one and struck out four while scattering five hits to earn the win.
“I don’t think we’ve had many games where our starter is that efficient and puts up that many zeros in a row and we don’t either win or have a lead through five or six,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “It’s not rocket science. When our pitchers are commanding multiple pitches for strikes right out of the gate and pitch to a lot of soft contact to keep the game moving quickly, we play a lot more focused, upbeat, quality baseball.”
The bottom of the first inning started modestly for the Oilmen with two outs and nobody on base, but a two-out rally led to four runs as the team produced four straight singles, including one by Kyle Czernecki (Kankakee CC / Minooka, Ill.) that drove in a pair.
“The mentality of not giving that out away was key in that first inning,” Enright said. “We protected it with quality at-bats and continued to string together good at-bats with strike-zone discipline. Hitters were looking to do their job and move to the next guy and keep the inning going. That’s the trademark of good baseball teams. With two outs, some teams will give away the third out and other teams make opponents earn that last out.”
Nick Heiden (Aurora / Minooka, Ill.) delivered two shutout innings of two-hit ball to nail down the save after Joliet had scored twice in the sixth and once in the seventh to slice a six-run deficit in half. The Oilmen escaped both the seventh and eighth innings by turning a live-drive double play in each frame.
“Some people will look at that and think it was a good break or somewhat lucky, but I think it’s a product of us pitching down in the zone effectively,” Enright said. “If we elevate those pitches, that turns into extra bases and breaks the game open with runners in scoring position. When you keep the ball down and limit the damage hitters can do by throwing strikes at the bottom of the zone, you set yourself up for results like that, or worst-case-scenario, a base hit. That was a product of us pitching really well in a good part of the zone.”
Jack Zebig (Maryville / Plainfield, Ill.) paced the team with two hits on a night where the Oilmen (14-12) beat the Generals (10-13) despite being outhit 9-8.
The Chicago American Giants will be in town on Thursday for Thirsty Thursday featuring a 7:10 p.m. first pitch at Oil City Stadium. Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, which is available via Facebook Live, Region Sports, AM 1230 WJOB and JED-TV.