06/07/2017 5:04 PM -
Last week, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen tied their biggest win in franchise history with a 16-0 victory over the Crestwood Panthers. Wednesday, the Panthers got their revenge with a 9-2 win of their own.
After both teams started the game in an offensive struggle, the Oilmen scored first in the top of the fourth. Dashon Moore singled, and Chris Baker continued to climb up from a slow start to the season with an RBI single to drive Moore in. That lead, however, was short-lived. A pitch limit pulled Oilmen starter Caleb Matthews after three scoreless innings, and the Panthers pounced on reliever Christian Howell. Howell, who is still recovering from a stint with mono from before he joined NWI, gave up three runs in the bottom half of the fourth.
“Physically, it’s going to take a while to get him back up to where he usually is when he pitches,” Oilmen Coach Adam Enright said. “With mono, you’ve got to understand it completely wipes you out for a month and a half. You lose a lot of weight. You can’t do anything. You’re out of commission for six weeks, so it’s going to be a while before he’s back to what he has been.”
The wear and tear on Howell showed Wednesday. In four innings, he would give up all nine of Crestwood’s runs and throw over 100 pitches. “I wanted to win the game, but I wanted him to throw a lot of pitches and get acclimated again to throwing five or more innings at a time,” Enright explained. “He probably hasn’t thrown 80 pitches since last summer. That was the goal today. For that, it was a success. He pitched a bunch of innings in a row and worked his stamina back.”
While Howell’s performance was a losing effort, there were bright spots for Northwest Indiana. Chris Baker had a pair of RBI singles in the game after a very slow start to the season. Baker was hitting just .102 on the season going into today’s game, and Enright hopes today is a sign of a turnaround for his cleanup hitter.
“He’s a middle-of-the-lineup type guy, first four-to-five hitter type of guy,” Enright said. “There’s no reason to, in that small sample size, start moving him around and taking him out of the role we want him to be in. It doesn’t help establish what his role is on the team, and it might mess with his confidence and his believing that we believe he’s going to come out of it. He’s a guy we’re going to rely on. We know how good he is and what he brings to the team.”
Crestwood reliever Jack Carberry got the win Wednesday, improving to 1-0 in his first appearance of the season. He didn’t allow an earned run in five innings. Howell falls to 0-1. He gave up nine runs in four innings but did strike out six Panthers.
The Oilmen come home for the first time this season Thursday to face the Southland Vikings. NWI played its first ten games of the season on the road and comes into the home opener with a 5-5 record.
To see the box score from today's game, click on "Download Attachment".