Justin Rios lets a pitch go. Despite another high caliber performance, he couldn't hold the Oilmen down as they tied the best-of-three series at 1-1
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 7, 2019 – An oft-written cliché in the sports world is that “baseball is a game of inches”. That cliché came to fruition on Wednesday, and much to the Vikings detriment as the Northwest Indiana Oilmen prevailed 7-2 in Game 2 of the MCL semifinals.
A couple narrow misses, including a bang-bang play at first base that went in the Oilmen’s favor opened the door for a five-run seventh that put the Oilmen in front and would ultimately force a decisive Game 3.
“We had opportunities yes, but they had opportunities to and we got out of it. It was a great baseball game back and forth, where pitchers get out of jams. It should not be decided by a bad call,” said Vikings manager Dave Letourneau.
It certainly seemed in the begging that things might line up nicely for the Vikings as they hoped to complete a sweep of the Oilmen. Justin Rios (NCC/Lemont, Ill.) earned the start and was his usual impressive self, generating a lot of ground balls and weak contact.
He also came around to score on Jake Schroeder’s (NIU/Flossmoor, Ill.) double in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead. The Oilmen tied things in the third, but the Vikings would take the lead again in the fifth thanks to a wild pitch that scored Kellen Quigley (Webster University/Bolingbrook, Ill.).
A single and triple helped the Oilmen tie the game again at two in the sixth inning, and it began to feel like it might stay at that score for awhile with the pitchers for both teams looking locked in.
The tide changed in the seventh on a questionable call. The Vikings grounded into a double play to end the top half of the inning, and in the bottom half, the Oilmen’s leadoff hitter grounded a ball to Logan Anderson (South Suburban/Chicago, Ill.) at third base.
Anderson charged hard and made a good throw across the diamond that appeared to beat the runner by at least a step. However, infield umpire Russ Kolkay ruled him to be safe at first base, immediately drawing the ire of Letourneau. The Vikings skipper came running out of the third base dugout to plead his case, but it was to no avail.
“It’s a killer. Its baseball man, one call goes against you and the wheels fall off,” Letourneau said.
That’s exactly what happened to the Vikings, a bloop single and error followed the infield single to load the bases. Another error brought a run in to put the Oilmen in front 3-2. Mike Tobin (Concordia Chicago/Hickory Hills, Ill.) was then brought in to relieve Rios in the inning with the bags still full. Tobin notched a strikeout before surrendering a double that scored the Oilmen’s fourth run of the game.
A batter late the Oilmen’s Ben Berenda dropped a little floater down the right field line that barely landed in fair territory but cleared the bases nonetheless and blew the game wide open for the Oilmen.
“When a bad call goes against you like that, that stuffs going to happen,” Letourneau said. With the deficit at five, the Vikings offense could not find a response in the final two innings of play as the Oilmen evened the series at 1-1 and forced the winner-take-all game three at St. Rita on Thursday.
The prize waiting for the team on the winning end of the rubber match is the Bloomington Bobcats, who completed a sweep of the DuPage County Hounds to advance to their first MCL title round since 2017.
“(If) we come out, we play our game, we’re going to be ok. Our guys… they know what they’re up against and they’re ready for it,” Letourneau said.
The spotlight returns to St. Rita High School, where the Vikings will at least have the comfort of home field in what will undoubtedly be the biggest game of the season for either team. Zach Litke (Concordia Chicago/Oak Lawn, Ill.) will toe the rubber for the Vikings in the deciding game. First pitch will be at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Northwest Indiana Oilmen Broadcast Network, where Will Trubshaw will join Brandon Vickrey and Blake Toman for the call of the game.