07/31/2016 3:48 PM -
Joliet, Ill. – July 31, 2016 – A game that featured a prosperous start had a bitter ending for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen on Sunday afternoon.
The Oilmen led 7-0 in the middle of the first inning, but that lead evaporated by the second in an eventual 12-10 loss to Joliet in the regular season finale.
The Oilmen (26-22) finished in third in the Midwest Collegiate League regular-season standings, as the win allowed the Admirals (26-21) to nail down second place. The Oilmen travel to Joliet for Game 1 of a best-of-three postseason series on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Game 2 of the series will be on Wednesday night at 7:20 at Oil City Stadium, and Game 3 (if necessary) will be in Joliet on Thursday at 5 p.m.
The Oilmen knocked out Joliet starter Nick Newman after 2/3 of an inning. He was charged with seven runs on four hits and four walks. Oilmen starter Luke Jaksich (St. Joseph’s College / St. John, Ind.) had struggles of his own in the bottom of the inning. He allowed six earned runs on four hits and two walks in his only frame of work.
“He was up in the zone,” Enright said. “He had poor command of both pitches, and fastballs were up. He was behind in counts. Even the ground balls that he gave up were hit hard. It’s easy to hit a ground ball hard and it scoots through the infield pretty quickly if it’s up.”
The short outing didn’t alter the Oilmen pitching plans significantly, as Jaksich had only been slated to go two to three in what amounted to a staff day for the Oilmen.
Clay Keltner (Cornerstone / Highland, Ind.) came on to attempt to quiet the Admirals, but instead allowed a run in the second and four more in the fourth. He eventually took the defeat to drop to 3-4 on the season.
Jack Howard picked up the win for the Admirals after limiting the Oilmen to three earned runs on four hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Stefano Belmonte (Florida Gulf Coast / Munster, Ind.) went 1-for-3 to finish the regular season with a .402 batting average, winning the MCL batting title and breaking the Oilmen single-season record set by Tyler Sroczynski (.397) last season.
Sroczynski may have lost one franchise record to his teammate, but he gained another by swiping his 22nd base of the year to draw even with Jack Czeszewski (2013) for the Oilmen single-season record. Czeszewski saw another of his records fall, as Chris Baker drew a first-inning walk, his 31st of the season to pass Czeszewski’s mark.
Cory Krolikowski (Minnesota Duluth / Bartlett, Ill.) cracked the biggest hit of the prosperous first inning, a bases-clearing double to drive in three. Krolikowski finished the season with four doubles, all at Wayne L. King Junior Field.
Krolikowski, already nursing an elbow issue that has limited him to DH duties all summer, later left the game with a hamstring injury after reaching on an error in the second. He is doubtful to return for the postseason.
Sroczynski was the only Oilmen player with two hits, while Cody Grosse and Jordan Miller had three apiece for Joliet. Miller moved from right field to the mound, where he nailed down his league-leading seventh save of the season by retiring the side in order in the ninth.
Although the Oilmen coughed up the chance to capture home field advantage, Enright doesn’t feel that is a significant blow to their chances this week.
“It comes down to us playing well,” he said. “We had some pitchers come in with less than desirable stuff. It was a poor day of pitching. Anytime you score 10 runs, you’re going to have a good shot to win.”
The playoffs begin on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Joliet Junior College, before the Oilmen return home on Wednesday night for Game 2 at 7:20 p.m. at Oil City Stadium.