07/31/2015 11:07 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – July 31, 2015 – The motivation going into Friday’s doubleheader against Lexington was multi-fold for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.
First, the obvious. Avoiding a quick turnaround for a 3 p.m. game in Lexington on Saturday. Owning home-field advantage for two of the three first-round playoff games. Forcing the Snipes to travel to Northwest Indiana for a second straight day. Gaining momentum and confidence for the first round.
But none of those were the “x-factor” that could give the Oilmen the most distinct advantage in the first-round series after Friday’s doubleheader sweep of the Snipes. As Enrique Zamora takes the ball for Game 1, he does so in front of a large home-town audience of friends and family.
“He’s got his tux; he’s got his limo set up,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “Him pitching Game 1 at home is the Prom for Enrique. That’s what we were trying to do, get Enrique to the Prom.”
The Oilmen took home-field advantage in the opening round with resounding victories, battering the Snipes 12-2 in five innings and 13-2 in a full nine-inning game.
Tyler Srocynski finished the regular season with a .397 batting average, the highest in Northwest Indiana Oilmen history. He put an exclamation mark on his season with four hits and three RBIs in Friday’s doubleheader sweep.
Sroczynski echoed Enright’s sentiment about the importance of home-field advantage.
“It’s very important because we’ve got Zamora pitching and we’re going to have about 1,000 Zamoras in the stands,” he said. “We all love that.”
Entering this week, the Oilmen needed five straight victories in order to get home-field advantage in the first round. Four days and five triumphs later, it’s mission accomplished. The Oilmen waited for the perfect time for their first five-game winning streak this season.
In the 12-2 game one victory, the Oilmen forced the 10-run rule by producing an eight-run fifth. Stefano Belmonte and Zack Jones had two hits each. Kyle VanKalker delivered a go-ahead two-run single in the fourth.
Brad Wood, making his first start of the year after pitching only 2 2/3 innings this season prior to Friday, tossed five innings and allow two unearned runs on four hits. He notched the win with a five-inning complete game, his first decision of the season.
Jack Rettig (1-1) started for the Snipes and took the loss, yielding four runs (three earned) in 3 1/3 innings in the opener.
The second game featured no shortage of offensive stars, as seven of the nine hitters in the Oilmen lineup had multiple hits. The biggest blow of the game was a three-run homer by Fred Smart in the fourth that built the Oilmen lead to 8-0.
Zack Jones had two hits in each game on Friday to finish the season with a .322 average, well above the goal of .300 that he set prior to the year.
“The bright spot of the day for me was in the first game when we executed well,” Enright said. “Jones executed a great push bunt, something that he struggled doing all year at Trinity. He didn’t bunt very well for us. He ended up being safe at first, and that set up that inning.”
Matt Jenkins (2-4) took the loss in the second game, allowing four runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. Brian Jestice (5-1) captured the win, tossing eight scoreless innings in his best start of the year.
The Oilmen (27-17) will host the Snipes (25-16) in Game 1 of the MCL Semifinal Series on Saturday at 7:10 at Oil City Stadium. The second game will be on Sunday at 3 p.m. at High Desert Field in Lexington. If necessary, Game 3 will take place on Monday night at Oil City Stadium at 7:10 p.m.