06/22/2015 1:29 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 25, 2015 – There’s a certain thrill that comes with the number of close games the Oilmen played in the first 15 games of the season.
With every game decided by six runs or fewer and all 15 close late in the game, the excitement level was high night in and night out. However, no one was complaining when the Oilmen got it done in more comfortable fashion on Thursday, downing Michigan City 12-3.
It was tight early as the Oilmen inched out to the lead with single tallies in the second, third and fifth. The sixth inning was the pivotal frame, as Northwest Indiana broke it open with five runs. Stefano Belmonte drilled a bases-clearing double for the game’s big blow.
“He’s been great for us,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “It seems like his best at-bats are always with the bases loaded and two outs or runners in scoring position. He always seems to get hits in those spots, which is a breath of fresh air.”
Belmonte (South Suburban College / Munster, Ind.) now holds the team lead in RBIs with 14.
Catcher Josh Turnock (Eastern Illinois / Granger, Ind.) also enjoyed a productive offensive day, going 3-for-5 and driving in two. Turnock now has three three-hit games this season, two of which have come this week against the Lakers.
Although they busted it open with big swings late, the Oilmen played small ball early in the game. For the second consecutive day, Brad Wood (Northern Illinois, Orland Park, Ill.) produced a run by dropping down a bunt single and working his way around the basepaths. In the fifth, Tyler Sroczynski (Wabash Valley / Trinity Christina / Dyer, Ind.) walked and stole both second and third before motoring home on a Wood fly ball.
“We had lots of well-hit balls in good counts,” Enright said. “It’s contagious as far as hitting goes. You get guys squaring them up and they see balls getting hit all over the yard, then it gets a little easier in their minds.”
Not to be overshadowed by the strong offensive performance was starting pitcher Christian Howell, who heaved his most impressive outing of the season by pitching 7 1/3 innings and allowing only one run, which was an unearned tally in the eighth. He issued two walks and struck out four.
“He pitched at a way higher level than he did in his first two outings,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “That’s command and repeating his mechanics and getting a feel for throwing that many innings. In the spring, he was a guy out of the ‘pen and didn’t get a chance to throw seven innings. Now, he’s getting comfortable going 100 pitches and he’s starting to figure it out a little more.”
Howell (Minnesota State Mankato / Aurora, Ill.) notched the win, his first decision of the season. Michigan City starter Bobby Humphreys (0-2) gave up eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings and was hit with the defeat.
DuPage County split a doubleheader with Southland on Thursday, meaning the victory allowed the Oilmen (10-5) to move into a first-place tie with the Hounds. Michigan City (4-11) is now six games off the pace in the Midwest Collegiate League.
The 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew and mascot Tommy Hawk will join the Oilmen on Friday night as the team paints the game pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness. All tickets are $10 with kids 12 and under receiving free admission as part of BP Family Friday. The Oilmen welcome the Lexington Snipes for a 7:10 first pitch.