07/04/2016 6:22 PM -
On Independence Day, it seemed only fitting that the U.S. Military All-Stars would work a little magic at Oil City Stadium.
The barnstorming team comprised of all active duty servicemen utilized an improbable rally to the delight of the fans who gathered for the annual Veterans Benefit game to win 4-3 over the Oilmen.
The U.S. Military All-Stars trailed 3-1 with two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning, but four batters later they owned the lead thanks to a bases-clearing double by Ryan Robb.
Robb, who plays on the Air Force baseball team, owned all four RBIs in the game. He doubled to plate the first All-Stars run in the first inning. Then his ninth-inning heroics lifted America’s heroes to victory on the Fourth of a July, a script seemingly straight from Hollywood.
“There’s pressure obviously, but I just wanted to go up there have fun and have a good at-bat,” Robb said. “I was taking until I got a strike. I’m glad it went fair. It’s a great feeling; it’s awesome.”
The double, which came against reliever James Whiteman, spoiled the start of the year for Oilmen right-hander Reggie Johnson (Alcorn State / Chicago, Ill.), who retired 22 straight batters from the second through ninth innings.
Johnson’s final line is deceiving, as he allowed four runs on three hits and four walks while striking out seven over 8 2/3 innings. In reality, he walked off the mound to a loud ovation having only allowed one run, but three inherited runners scored on the double and Johnson was hit with a tough-luck loss.
“Everything was working,” Johnson said. “Anything that I needed to throw I could go to. It was a good day. It didn’t start off good; I struggled a little bit, but then I found my command and composure and everything was good from there.”
After allowing a double to Robb with two outs in the first, Johnson did not yield another hit until two outs in the ninth. After back-to-back walks with one away in the second, the right-handed hurler didn’t surrender another base runner until after the second out of the ninth inning.
The experience of playing against the U.S. Military All-Stars is one the Oilmen players will never forget.
“They’re good guys; they didn’t stop fighting and ended up winning,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the last out, but that’s baseball. That’s why I love the game.”
Cory Krolikowski (Minnesota Duluth / Bartlett, Ill.) cranked up the Oilmen offense with a go-ahead two-run single with two outs in the first. The hit was an important one after the Oilmen had loaded the bases with nobody out only to have the next two outs recorded without a run crossing. Krolikowski finished 2-for-2 and reached base three times.
Jordan Flint (Eastern Illinois / Bartlett, Ill.) drove in the other run with a single that plated Chris Baker in the bottom of the eighth.
“They bring more than just baseball,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “That puts everything into perspective about what’s really important and what’s not as important as far as baseball is concerned. It’s been a pretty cool experience every time they’ve played us.”
The Oilmen will take Tuesday off before beginning a five-game road stretch with a doubleheader against the Lakers at Riverside Park in Hammond with two seven-inning games starting at 6:15 on Wednesday.