Ninth-Inning Magic Runs Out as Vikings Nip Oilmen
07/10/2022 8:04 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 9, 2022 – The rivalry between the Northern League’s two oldest franchises is officially back after this weekend’s games at Oil City Stadium.
The second of two tense contests had the same score but a different result as Friday’s game, as the Southland Vikings held on to edge the Oilmen 10-9 despite another heart-pounding ninth inning on Saturday night.
The Vikings took the lead with two in the top of the ninth before the Oilmen pushed across one run and had the potential tying run at second and winning run at first in the bottom of the ninth.
“Both teams are grappling for that second spot in the standings right now as we’re trying to leapfrog them to get into second place,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “The more teams that we play where we have this kind of energy in the game is good for the league.”
The Vikings scored twice early but the Oilmen responded with two in the third on an RBI single by Chris Baker (Trinity Christian / South Holland, Ill.) and run-scoring double by Jack Zebig (Maryville / Plainfield, Ill.) to tie the game at two. Southland inched ahead 4-3 with a fourth-inning tally then exploded for five in the sixth – four of which were unearned – in an inning that featured two walks, two hit batters and a costly error on a play that should have been the third out of the inning with only one run across.
“The perfect makeup of letting a game get away from you is not throwing strikes and not making routine plays,” Enright said. “We had a pretty big error with two outs, throwing a ball away to first and giving up four free passes in the inning. They didn’t have to earn all of those runs by any means, so realistically we could have erased four or five of those runs by making plays and throwing strikes.”
The Oilmen displayed their resilience yet again in the bottom of the sixth inning, bouncing back thanks to a three-run homer by Chazz Clark (Xavier [LA] / Chicago, Ill.) that sliced a six-run deficit in half. The long ball was preceded by a pair of walks. The Oilmen completed the six-run comeback with three in the seventh to tie the game at eight.
“The makeup of this team, especially offensively, is that we get much harder to get out later in the game,” Enright said. “That’s a product of using our early at-bats to prepare for the later at-bats. Even if we don’t have success with RBIs and hits in the first at-bat or two, we’re gathering information to help ourselves be as successful as possible later in the game.”
A pair of two-out hits helped Southland take the lead in the top of the ninth inning, before the Oilmen couldn’t keep up their trend of ninth-inning magic by settling for one run in the bottom half.
Starting pitcher CJ Byrdak (Iowa Central / Homer Glenn, Ill.) was touched for two runs on three soft singles in the top of the first and allowed a homer in the third, but wrapped up his solid pre-All-Star-Break portion of the season with four strong innings while walking none and received no decision.
“CJ was really good,” Enright said. “There were a couple of tough-luck hits in the first inning. He left a fastball out over the plate for the home run, but it was another good day and the same old CJ Byrdak that we’ve come to know with the Oilmen.”
Zebig enjoyed a four-hit game to lead a 10-hit attack, while Anthony Fumagalli (Purdue Northwest / Plainfield, Ill.) also enjoyed a multi-hit effort.
The Oilmen (18-15) have reached the All-Star Break as the Northern League All-Star Game will take place on Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. Tickets are available now on NWIOilmen.com. The game will be broadcast on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, available on AM 1230 WJOB, Region Sports, JED-TV and the Oilmen Facebook Page with Brandon Vickrey and Brian Jennings on the call.