Bullpen thrives again as Oilmen spoil Southland opener
06/03/2015 4:45 AM -
Chicago Heights, Ill. – June 3, 2015 – Oilmen outfielder Jordan Lewis sure knows how to make a favorable first impression.
As Lewis (Purdue / Escondido, Calif.) stepped into the box in the first inning of Wednesday’s game, it was the first time Oilmen manager Adam Enright saw him bat in person.
Moments later, he was jogging around the bases after launching a two-run home run over the right-field fence. The Oilmen never trailed, eventually besting Southland 5-3 in the first ever Midwest Collegiate League game at Hap Bruno Field.
“I wanted to see some good pitches and put a good swing on the ball,” Lewis said. “That’s all there was to it. I was looking for a fastball, I got ahead in the count early and I went with it. The pitcher fell behind and had to come back with a lot of fastballs. I happened to catch it just right.”
Lewis earned the No. 3 spot in the batting order based on his performance during batting practice on Monday in Joliet.
“I was impressed with the way the ball was coming off his bat,” Enright said. “I expected him to be a guy who could drive the ball possibly out of the yard or into the gaps. He showed good bat speed and an ability to hit the ball pretty well.”
With the game tied 2-2 in the fifth, the Oilmen were aided by an error, a fielder’s choice on which an out was not recorded and a balk as they scored without the benefit of a hit or walk. Former Viking Stefano Belmonte inflicted damage upon his former team in the seventh by unloading a two-out, two-run double that proved to be the difference in the game.
The Oilmen bullpen met an unforeseen obstacle head on for the second consecutive game. Brandon Barnes (Paradise Valley / Hobart, Ind.) left after only one inning due to pain in his elbow. That came after Keith Mahler threw just three frames on Monday due to arm discomfort.
“We’ll see how it goes through the week, and hopefully next week (Barnes) will be ready to start again,” Enright said. “He came in and said he felt a little something in his elbow. During the summer we’re going to take every precaution.”
For the second consecutive game, the Oilmen bullpen was up for the challenge. Sam Bell (Marian / Munster, Ind.) notched the victory with three innings of relief in which he allowed two runs on five hits. Richard Yelnick (Parkland / New Lenox, Ill.) retired the side in order in the eighth and has now sent down all nine men he has faced in an Oilmen uniform.
“We’ve gotten to see what our bullpen guys can do a lot earlier than we anticipated,” Enright said. “We had a few walks, but we got right back at it. We didn’t let the wheels fall off.”
Enrique Zamora (Calumet College / Hammond, Ind.) notched his second save, while Southland’s Robby Nunn was hit with the defeat.
No player on either team had a multi-hit performance, but NWI’s Xavier Warren (Parkland / Granville, Ill.) reached base three times in his debut.
The Oilmen (2-0) continue a stretch of six straight road games to start the season on Thursday in Joliet. The first pitch is slated for 5 p.m., with pregame coverage starting at 4:50 by clicking the “listen live” link on NWIOilmen.com.
The first home game at Oil City Stadium this season is set for Wednesday, June 10 at 7 p.m. against the Joliet Admirals. It’s Entourage Night at the ballpark, as fans are encouraged to bring their entourage with them for a night of fun while catching their first glimpse of an exciting summer of Oilmen baseball.