12/20/2015 3:47 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – December 20, 2015 – In college summer ball, roster turnover is the norm with players bouncing from team to team and league to league throughout their collegiate careers.
So when Adam Enright had the opportunity to nail down a known commodity out of the bullpen for the 2016 season, it comes as no surprise that the Northwest Indiana Oilmen manager jumped at the opportunity.
Eastern Illinois left-handed pitcher Hunter Clark will return for a second summer of Midwest Collegiate League baseball once he completes his spring season with the Panthers.
“I think it’s going to be another fun summer,” Clark said. “I won’t have the nerves that all of the freshmen might have. I’ve been there for a year; I know what the competition is like. I know how much fun the team can have, and I know it’s going to be another great year.”
Clark was the most unsung of heroes for the 2015 Oilmen, quietly posting a team-best 1.03 ERA in 20 1/3 innings of relief. He finished the regular season with an impressive stretch of 12 consecutive scoreless innings, a streak that was snapped when he allowed two runs (one earned) and took the loss in a season-ending 6-2 postseason defeat to Lexington on Aug. 3.
“We were so close, so that will give me a little more motivation to push and finish the summer strong,” Clark said. “We want to win a championship for the Oilmen.”
Clark will be surrounded by plenty of familiar faces during his second summer with the Oilmen. Out of the 10 others players that have been announced as 2016 Oilmen, Clark has played with six of them. Outfield Tyler Sroczynski and pitcher Richard Yelnick join Clark as returning Oilmen. Jordan Flint, Jimmy Govern and Zack Forney are all freshmen at Eastern Illinois.
In addition, Clark played with Central Michigan’s Blake Cleveland on the Michiana Scrappers.
Clark, a native of Granger, Indiana and graduate of Penn High School, redshirted the 2015 season to retain four years of college eligibility. When he returned to EIU for fall ball after spending the summer with the Oilmen, coach Jason Anderson was impressed by Clark’s significant progress.
“He was one of the most improved guys on the team,” Anderson said. “He came out and had a really good fall this year. Our goal with him all along has been to really utilize his curveball. He came in this fall and really improved his command on it. He looks like he’s ready to take that next step.”
Clark is expected to come out of the bullpen primarily to match up against left-handed hitters this spring.
“He’s one of the most athletic guys on the team as a pitcher,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping to harness all that athletic ability and that curveball into one-inning stints where he can match up against lefties and have a lot of success.”
The summer boosted Clark’s confidence by giving him the chance to “get on the mound and just throw.” He’s excited to experience similar success his second go-around of summer baseball in Northwest Indiana.
“You brought in a group of kids that had never met each other, but we had fun when we played,” Clark said. “We were all laughing and having a good time. We came together and bonded. I still talk to some of my Oilmen teammates, so it was a really nice experience.”