By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 4, 2018 – As Christian Howell (Trinity Christian / Aurora, Ill.) watched from the first-base dugout during Game 1 of the Midwest Collegiate League Championship series on Friday night in Lemont, Oilmen manager Adam Enright turned to him and said words Howell had been hoping to hear.
“If we win this game, I want you starting tomorrow.”
The Oilmen did win Friday’s game, setting up Howell to pitch them past the DuPage County Hounds 6-3 on Saturday night at Oil City Stadium. The win clinched the third Midwest Collegiate League Championship in Oilmen history and marked the first time the Oilmen could celebrate a title on their home field since 2012.
The right-hander, working on three days of rest, did not allow a run until the eighth inning and finished having yielded three tallies (one earned) over eight frames while striking out 10 and scattering six hits. Howell joins Jordan Petty (2016) and Andy Wellwerts (2012) as players who have been the winning pitcher in championship-clinching games for the Oilmen.
After a substandard performance in the first round of the MCL Playoffs against Southland and seeing an opportunity to close out the Hounds narrowly slip from his grasps in Game 2 of the 2016 MCL Championship Series at Oil City Stadium, Howell gained redemption in the final game of his four-year Oilmen career.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity,” Howell said. “I was very amped up today. Fastballs inside were the biggest key. They were swinging at pretty much everything. I mixed in the slider later in the game. This was a great way to go out. Everybody with the Oilmen has been fantastic to me. It’s a great place to play baseball – I’d recommend it to anyone.”
The Oilmen jumped on the board with a three-run bottom of the first, highlighted by a two-run Jake Perreira (University of Indianapolis / Grant Park, Ill.) single. The other three runs came in the sixth inning, with Nate Montgomery (Tusculum / Geneva, Ill.) singling home a pair and Perreira adding another run-scoring single.
After the game, Perreira was named the 2018 MCL Postseason MVP, repeating an honor that he also earned during the 2016 Postseason. He became the first player in league history to win the MCL Postseason MVP honor twice. The only other Oilmen player who has garnered that distinction is Cody Dykema (2012).
Perreira reached base in all four plate appearances on Saturday to finish the postseason with a batting average of .600 and an on-base percentage of .778.
“He’s a guy who doesn’t take failure super negative and doesn’t take success extremely positive,” Enright said. “His success in the postseason is just a culmination of his work ethic and demeanor. For him, it could have been a regular season game and we would have gotten the same effort out of him.”
After the Hounds scored three times in the eighth to make a game of it, the Oilmen utilized a pair of pitchers to get through the ninth. Chad Patrick (Purdue Northwest / Hebron, Ind.) went 1/3 of an inning and exited with two men on base, setting up Pedro Rodriguez (Tusculum / Kissimmee, Fla.) to come in and nail down the save for the second consecutive day.
The Oilmen became the first MCL team since the 2014 Southland Vikings to sweep through the postseason with a perfect 4-0 record. There were numerous parallels to the 2016 season, when the Oilmen also beat DuPage County in the MCL Championship Series. Both the 2016 and 2018 Oilmen got off to slow starts, with the Oilmen beginning this season 4-8 through 12 games with three of those four wins having come against the last-place Crestwood Panthers.
The Oilmen heated up when it mattered most, finishing the season on a seven-game winning streak, three in the regular season and four in the postseason.
“For me, more than just winning a championship, today was about finishing the summer on a positive note for everybody involved,” Enright said. “Going through the postseason and having success allows you to leave on a good note. The relationships are going to be strong after this is over.”
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