05/21/2014 12:45 PM -
The last two summers, Northwest Indiana Oilmen fans have grown accustomed to seeing local talent and a winning baseball team whenever they attend a game at Oil City Stadium. This year, the Oilmen hope to provide even more of both.
The Oilmen, who will vie for their third trip to the Midwest Collegiate League championship series in just their third year in existence, will showcase a roster comprised of mostly players who live in Northwest Indiana or Illinois. Nearly every prominent Indiana Division-I baseball program (Purdue, Butler, Notre Dame, Indiana, Ball State and Valparaiso) will have at least one representative on the roster, something Oilmen manager Justin Huisman believes will help attract fans to the ballpark.
“If they’ve heard of them in high school or if they’re going to schools that are close by that are their favorite teams, it definitely helps get people in the seats,” Huisman said. “Then, on top of that, if they’re winning and they’re doing it in a fun fashion, people are going to hear about it and want to come out.”
In addition to the aforementioned in-state schools, Division-I programs Akron, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois University, Cincinnati, Michigan State and Central Michigan will be represented on the Oil City Stadium diamond.
The Oilmen posted a 2013 regular season record of 27-15, good enough for second place in the MCL standings. After recording two consecutive first-round victories over Lexington, the Oilmen dropped back-to-back games to Southland in the league finals.
“I would say this year’s roster is similar to last year’s, but even better as far as getting some of the top Division-I local talent,” Huisman said.
There are four returnees, all pitchers, from last year’s team. Brothers Danny and Matt Pobereyko, who are Bishop Noll graduates, are joined by Lake Central alum Jimmy McNamara and Munster product Scott Jerge.
“Those guys did a great job last year,” Huisman said. “More than that, they’re just great guys. They’re good teammates and fun to be around. They love baseball and have a passion for it.”
The third year of collegiate baseball in Whiting will get underway on Tuesday, May 27, when the Oilmen host the Southland Vikings in a rematch of the 2013 MCL Championship. The Oilmen will host a mid-summer exhibition with the U.S. Military All-Star team for the third consecutive year. The game will take place on Tuesday, July 1 in a special patriotic showcase of America and the national pastime.
Oil City Stadium will also host the MCL-Star game for the second season in a row and the third time in the last four years.
“Every year, it seems like the talent in the league has gotten better and better,” Huisman said. “Last year, for the most part the main four or five teams were pretty even competition wise and were battling with each other. I expect it to be the same this year, where the talent level is going to be more evened out, and hopefully we can rise above it.”