07/28/2017 7:52 PM -
The Joliet Admirals haven’t had a successful 2017 season. They were just 11-31 going into Friday, but the Admirals’ record against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen was even more abysmal. Joliet hadn’t beaten Northwest Indiana once in 2017, going 0-8 before the two teams met for a doubleheader Friday at Joliet Junior College. The Oilmen swept the two games, and finished its meetings with the Admirals this season at a perfect 10-0.
Game 1 started with the Oilmen jumping out to an early lead. In the top of the first, Northwest Indiana loaded the bases on Joliet starter Conor Grove before recording an out. The Oilmen scored their first run after Grove walked in Chase Dawson. Later, Hunter Thorn singled in Tyler Sroczysnki and Alec Olund hit a sacrifice fly which scored Amir Wright. The Admirals trailed by three runs before they got to the plate. Joliet responded with a run in the bottom of the first, and tied the game in the third inning. Giovanni Diaz tripled with a runner on to cut the Oilmen lead to one, and two batters later Ben Zordani singled and brought home Diaz. In a seven-inning game (which is the protocol for doubleheaders in the MCL), the game was in a dead lock in the fourth.
Northwest Indiana didn’t take the lead back until the sixth inning, when the Oilmen offense exploded for five runs. Tyler Sroczynski singled home Will Kulcher to give NWI the lead back, but the biggest play of the game came off the bat of Chris Baker. With the bases loaded and the Oilmen still up just one, Baker hit a bases clearing triple to blow the game open. Baker later scored on a balk by reliever Daniel Terrazas, and the Oilmen took a five-run lead into the last inning of the game.
The Admirals scored a run in the seventh, but never came close to coming back. The Oilmen took Game 1, 8-4. Bo Hofstra got the win for the Oilmen, while Conor Grove took the loss. After a half hour break, the two teams took to the field again for Game 2. Joliet struck first in the second game. With a runner on in the bottom of the first, Ranko Stevanovic doubled and scored Ben Zordani. It was the first and only lead the Admirals would have in either of the two games.
The Oilmen responded with runs in each of the next five innings. NWI tied the game in the top of the second and took the lead in the third. In total, the Oilmen scored nine runs in the scoring stretch. Chase Dawson, Chris Baker and Noah Davis had two RBIs in the winning effort for Northwest Indiana.
The story of Game 2 was Christian Howell. He pitched all seven innings for the Oilmen and put together his best performance of the 2017 season. After giving up the one run in the first inning, Howell didn’t allow any other Admiral to score and finished the game with six strikeouts and two walks. It was the longest outing of the season for Howell, and he took the win in his first quality start of the year.
“He was really down on himself about doing as poorly as he did when he came back,” Coach Adam Enright said. “He expected more out of himself just because he’s been better in the past. For him to go out and throw seven innings and be as good as he was, it’s a huge confidence boost for him. That’s kind of what makes him go, when he feels like he’s the best guy out there and nobody can beat him. He challenges hitters and pitches really efficiently and effectively.”
The Oilmen took the 9-1 win and improved to 33-16 on the season. Christian Howell got his first win of the season, while Joliet starter Brock Budzeilek was saddled with the loss. The Oilmen finish the regular season tomorrow in Bloomington against the Bobcats. The game starts at 1 p.m.
“I think they enjoy beating us,” said Enright of the Bobcats. “I’ve talked to our guys about knowing how to be prepared for the postseason and what we’re trying to do as far as how to get a lead and at what point in the game and letting us do what we want to do with our pitchers. Hopefully, we’ll have one more opportunity to work on that and manufacture runs so we’re winning after the fifth or sixth inning.”