Michael Bolton at the plate against the Southland Vikings.
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen secured their place in the 2019 MCL Championship Series in a winner-take-all, game three, win against the Southland Vikings. The Oilmen’s offense played a significant part in the upset, with the team striking for a record-setting five home runs in the 11-10 win.
Oilmen right-hander Mike Madura (South Suburban Community College / Munster, Ind.) took the mound against the Vikings and started by setting the Vikings down in order the first two innings. Madura would pitch six innings, notching seven strikeouts while giving up only two earned runs on five hits.
“Madura has gotten better and better as this year has gone on,” Oilmen manager Kevin Tyrrell said. “He’s never bothered out on the mound. He can give up a home run, but he always comes back and focuses on the next batter. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do as a pitcher.”
The Oilmen would get the lead early in the game when outfielder Clay Thompson (Kankakee Community College / Schererville, Ind.) would hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning.
“Clay set the tone early in the ballgame with that home run,” Tyrrell said. “When he got a hold of that pitch, you could tell it was going to be a good day for hitters.”
Although the Vikings would respond with a game-tying two-run home run of their own in the bottom of the third, the Oilmen’s bats would stay hot. Cole Cervantes (Griffith High School / Griffith, Ind.) and Tommy Farrell (University of Illinois - Chicago / Chicago, Ill.) would each get an RBI in the top of the fourth inning to help the Oilmen retake the lead.
The Oilmen would add seven more runs during the fifth, sixth, and seven innings courtesy of four home runs, including two from designated hitter Joe Rycerz (Saint Xavier University / Schererville, Ind.).
“Rycerz was frustrated after he struck out in his first at-bat,” Tyrrell said. “But he sorted out his approach on the bench waiting for his next at-bat and he turned things around at the plate.”
Rycerz would end the day 2-5, with 5 RBIs coming on two home runs in consecutive innings. The Southland Vikings wouldn’t go down without a fight, scoring one run in the sixth, two in the seventh, and three in the eighth to make it just a three-run ballgame going into the top of the ninth.
The Oilmen would use a bevy of pitchers after Madura exited in the sixth. Connor Oliver (Wichita State / Oak Forest, Ill.) would exit the game after only one inning of relief due to an arm injury. Patrick Doran (South Suburban Community College / Evergreen Park, Ill.) would not be able to record an out for the Oilmen before he had to leave the mound due to injury.
With the bullpen out of commission, the Oilmen would turn to their position players on the mound. Thompson, Farrell, and Ben Berenda (Indiana University Southeast / Rensselaer, Ind.) would all see time on the mound in the eighth and ninth innings.
Thompson would not allow a hit after replacing Duran in the bottom of the eighth inning to hold the Vikings to just three runs. Farrell was able to retire two batters to start the bottom of the ninth inning while giving up only one run.
However, Berenda worked into a jam near the end of the game, with the Vikings loading the bases and getting the game-tying run to third base. Berenda would close the door and retire the final batter of the game to give the Oilmen the win, inducing a pop-up to Thompson in centerfield.
The Oilmen will face-off against the Bloomington Bobcats in game one of the MCL Championship Series on Friday, August 9 at 6:15 p.m. at O’Neil Park in Bloomington, Ill. Brandon Vickrey and Blake Toman will have the call on the Northwest Indiana Oilmen broadcasting network, accessible via Facebook Live.