By: Brandon Vickrey
Normal, Ill. – June 4, 2019 – Seven was the lucky numbers for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen on Tuesday.
The game went from a tight showdown to a laugher in the blink of an eye, as the Oilmen scored seven runs in the seventh inning on their way to a 12-2 win over Bloomington.
Frank Napleton (Saint Leo / La Grange, Ill.) was the day’s key performer, cracking a line-drive solo homer down the left-field line in the fourth before notching the biggest hit of the seventh-inning uprising. His bases-clearing double one-hopped the left-field wall and plated three. Napleton went 2-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored.
“Frank was pressing at the plate for the first couple games,” Oilmen manager Kevin Tyrrell said. “When a hitter is afraid to miss the baseball, his bat speed isn’t as good. He let it go tonight and was great. Having guys not be anxious in that seventh inning to take those walks was big. So far we’ve been really aggressive at the plate, so it was nice to see us take walks.”
The Oilmen jumped on the board in the opening inning as Malik Peters (Northern Illinois / Calumet City, Ill.) singled, went to second on an error, stole third and scored on a ground ball by Ben Berenda (IU Southeast / Rensselaer, Ind.). They expanded the lead to three in the second as Justin Conant (Ball State / Shorewood, Ill.) ripped a single to drive in two. Conant finished the day with three hits, two RBIs and two runs scored in addition to continuing to shine at the shortstop position.
“Justin has been barreling the baseball and is a really tough out,” Tyrrell said. “What you don’t see in the scorebook is how well he plays the shortstop position. He seems to get it done in every aspect of the game. He’s a player with a really high baseball IQ, so it’s great to have him play short for us.”
The Napleton blast in the fourth made it 4-0, but the Bobcats crept back in the game with two in the bottom of the fourth. Oilmen starting pitcher Nate DeLoian (Carson Newman / Mokena, Ill.) earned the win after working five frames and allowing two runs on three hits and four walks while striking out three.
“He was excellent and he didn’t even have his off-speed pitch today,” Tyrrell said. “His fastball is firm and he moves it so much. He controls it when it’s at the top of the zone and the bottom of the zone. He’ll be really scary when he figures out his slider and curveball. He got outs even when he didn’t have much left in the tank because he hadn’t pitched in a while. The sky is the limit with him.”
The Oilmen extended the lead to 5-2 with a run in the fifth, then the bats broke out in a seventh inning that was aided by four walks. Play was halted after seven innings with the Oilmen owning a 10-run lead. Chris Torres (Wabash Valley / Chesterton, Ind.) was credited with the save for the Oilmen by virtue of working two scoreless innings to round out the win. It was a save situation since he entered the game when it was 5-2 before NWI broke it open.
Peters had another big day at the dish, going 4-for-5. The Oilmen remained active in the running game as Peters and Conant each swiped bases.
“Hitting is contagious, which is scary because if we have a couple bad innings, our wood bats become a lot less scary,” Tyrrell said. “I don’t want to get too high and mighty, but we do have a potent offense.”
The Oilmen (3-1) picked up their third straight win, while the Bobcats (3-2) incurred their second defeat of the season.
Northwest Indiana will open up the home portion of its season on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium as the DuPage County Hounds come to town for a rematch of the 2018 MCL Championship Series. Tickets are available on NWIOilmen.com. The home opener will be followed by Miller Lite Pint Night ($2 Miller Lite Pints) on Friday and an Oilmen t-shirt giveaway on Saturday.
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