By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – July 30, 2014 – There was no lack of drama on Wednesday night at Oil City Stadium. In a playoff atmosphere with the season on the line, both teams rose to the occasion as the Oilmen and Hounds engaged in one of the most thrilling ballgames of the season.
The only thing lacking was the storybook ending for the Oilmen, as the DuPage County Hounds prevailed 2-1 to punch their ticket to the 2014 Midwest Collegiate League Championship Series against the Southland Vikings beginning on Friday night.
The Hounds scored the first run of the game in the second inning as a balk was called against Oilmen pitcher Cameron Linck, allowing Drew LaComb to score. After the second-inning tally, the game turned into a display of quality starting pitching on both sides, with Linck and DuPage starter Matt Frawley matching one another zero for zero.
In the seventh inning, the Oilmen broke through with aid from the Hounds’ defense. Back-to-back throwing errors by shortstop Connor Kopach and third baseman Richie Gorski allowed Kevin DeFilippis to score the tying run.
The Oilmen had a chance for more in the seventh with runners at second and third and one away, but Craig Dedelow hit a bouncing ball to the drawn-in first baseman before Zack Jones tapped a ground ball back to Frawley to end the inning.
The Hounds scratched out the decisive run in the top of the eighth inning on a two-out infield single by Drew LaComb that pushed Trent Carrier across the plate. Linck was the tough-luck losing pitcher, allowing two runs on eight hits while striking out six over 7 2/3 innings. He received a loud ovation from the Oilmen fans when he exited the game, as they alertly showed their appreciation for both his outing and his strong season.
Even a few minutes after a season-ending loss, the upbeat Linck was already looking at the bigger picture.
“Looking back at tonight, I can smile and know that my family was out here having a great time,” he said. “I got to meet so many good guys and made so many great friendships that it doesn’t even affect me too much. This summer was about me getting better and maintaining what I need to do, and I felt like I did that.”
The Oilmen left 10 runners on base in the game and squandered scoring chances in the first, third, fourth, seventh and ninth innings.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Oilmen manager Justin Huisman said. “Just like I said (Tuesday), if we get the guys in scoring position, we’ve got to do something. It’s typically going to be a low-scoring game against this team. The opportunities were there and once again we just didn’t come through.”
Frawley exited after allowing one run on three hits over eight innings, turning the ball over to Josh Davis for the ninth. After Davis missed the strike zone with his first six pitches, DuPage County manager Sean Osborne wasted no time in removing him from the game. With DeFilippis already at first base and Nick Vogelemeier batting, Drew LaComb moved from second base to the mound.
Vogelmeier grounded a base hit into left field, pushing the tying run into scoring position and placing the potential winning run on base. However, LaComb sent down Brodie Meyer, Ryan Burvan and Craig Dedelow in consecutive fashion to end the game.
Matt Pobereyko came on in relief of Linck, making the final appearance of his Oilmen career. Pobereyko has one season of college eligibility remaining at Kentucky Wesleyan University. He put together the best season by a relief pitcher in Midwest Collegiate League history, going 13-for-13 in save chances. He allowed only two runs all season, both of which came in non-save scenarios.
“What else can you ask for out of a closer?” Huisman said. “He’s just been lights out for two summers. This summer was even better than last. Last summer was a great summer, and this summer he just totally blew that out of the water. I can’t imagine that saves tally is going to be broken any time soon.”
The Oilmen finished the season with an overall record of 26-19, 24-18 in Midwest Collegiate League play. They finished in third place in the regular season, before being swept in the best-of-three playoff series by DuPage. For the first time in the three-year history of the franchise, the MCL Championship Series will not involve the Oilmen.
“It was a fun summer,” Linck said. “It was different from what I’m used to because I’m used to the same guys growing up and getting to know the same people, but it was fun getting to know a lot of these guys. I made friendships that I will remember for a long time.”
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