By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 1, 2019 – The winning tradition of Northwest Indiana Oilmen baseball lives on.
The Oilmen clinched their eighth consecutive winning season with Thursday’s 6-5 walk-off victory over DuPage County, in the process nailing down an MCL playoff berth, also their eighth straight.
The franchise has never had a losing season or missed the playoffs.
“It feels great,” Oilmen manager Kevin Tyrrell said. “The job’s not done yet, but we’re on the right track. We’re starting to play some good baseball, and our pitchers are coming around. We’ve had injuries, but we’re still in a good spot and we’ve got no excuses right now.”
The Hounds struck first with two runs in the fourth inning including a solo homer by Austin Tittle, but the Oilmen responded with two of their own in the bottom of the frame including an RBI single by Tommy Farrell (UIC / Chicago, Ill.). The Oilmen took a 3-2 lead in the fifth behind a two-out hit by Jake Plastiak (Wabash Valley / Tinley Park, Ill.) and expanded the edge to 5-2 in the sixth thanks in part to an RBI double by Malik Peters (Northern Illinois / Calumet City, Ill.).
DuPage County bounced back with a three-run seventh to tie the game at five, and it remained deadlocked until a walk-off walk by Gabe Pulido (South Suburban / Griffith, Ind.) in the bottom of the ninth sent the Oilmen into celebration, avenging DuPage County’s walk-off win from six days earlier in Lemont.
“It was a playoff-like game because neither team was out of it when the other team got ahead,” Tyrrell said. “Everyone was making the most of their at-bats and trying to be tough outs. That’s a really tough team to strike out, and we were pretty tough to strike out tonight too, which is a good sign.”
There was a damper on an otherwise celebratory night for the Oilmen as starting pitcher Jonny Vesevick (College of DuPage / Wheaton, Ill.) left with shoulder pain after two innings. He finished what figures to be his final regular season outing with 53 strikeouts, two shy of tying the single-season franchise record of 55 set by Enrique Zamora in 2015. Vesevick finishes tied for second on the all-time list with Nate Thomas (2017) and is one of only four pitchers in Oilmen history with a 50-strikeout season (Danny Pobereyko, 2014).
The Vesevick departure, which leaves his status for the postseason doubtful, was the latest in a rash of Oilmen injuries as the team is playing without three key starting position players. Reliever Chris Torres (Wabash Valley / Chesterton, Ind.) allowed three runs on one hit and three walks while striking out six over four innings to pick up the victory.
“Chris looked like he ran out of gas in the second inning he worked, but he wanted it badly,” Tyrrell said. “He wouldn’t let me take him out. We owe a lot of this win to Chris Torres.”
The Oilmen (21-17) and Hounds (19-19) will do it again on Friday night at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. It’s a $2 Miller Lite Pint Night with discounted Miller Lite pints available at the stadium concession stand for the final time this season. For those who cannot attend, Brandon Vickrey and Blake Toman will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network.
The Oilmen own a two-game lead over DuPage County for third place in the MCL standings entering the final three games. The team is also within potential striking distance of the top two spots, two games behind first-place Bloomington and 1 ½ games behind second-place Southland.
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