By: Andrew Fish
Whiting, Ind. – June 30, 2020 - Expectations are high for Northwest Indiana Oilmen as they head into a unique 2020 season. The Oilmen and the rest of the Midwest Collegiate League are slated for 47 games in 47 days as the delayed season begins on July 4.
The team has never missed the playoffs in its eight-year history and will look to continue its success this season. The playoff format will be reduced to just the top two teams playing in a three-game series to decide the champion. This could make the streak difficult to continue, but the Oilmen believe they have the roster to do it.
The team is coming off a championship appearance in 2019, falling to the Bloomington Bobcats, who will not be a part of the 2020 season. They are two years removed from their 2018 title and return a couple of familiar faces from that team, but also many new ones. One face that might be familiar in the opposing dugout has joined forces with the Oilmen this season.
The Oilmen welcome manager Chris Cunningham to the team this year. Cunningham is familiar with the league and knows what it takes to win a championship. After four seasons with the Southland Vikings from 2011 to 2014, Cunningham will take over the reins for the Oilmen. Cunningham won two Midwest Collegiate League titles in his time with the Vikings and is excited about his team’s chances this season.
“We have a good number of talented pitchers and position players and we are going to stretch them out,” Cunningham said. “Every guy will get their opportunity to get their legs under them.”
Cunningham also highlighted returning outfielder Clay Thompson (Kankakee CC, Schererville, Ind.) as a player who has made a good impression in the team’s first few practices.
“Thompson has been a guy who has impressed,” Cunningham said. “He is an everyday, scrappy kind of player. He is just a baseball guy.”
Other standout players that return are corner infielder Joe Rycerz (St. Xavier / Schererville, Ind.) and pitcher Mike Madura (South Suburban / Munster, Ind.), who led the team in innings pitched and wins last season. They are also accompanied by standout newcomers like outfielder Kendal Ewell (Eastern Kentucky / Calumet City, Ill.), who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2019, and left-handed pitcher Isaiah Coupet (Ohio State / Flossmoor, Ill.).
The Oilmen open their season hoping for fireworks on Saturday, July 4 at 6:10 p.m. as they match up with the MCL Minutemen at Oil Stadium. The game will be open to fans and tickets are available. The game will also be broadcasted on Facebook Live through the Oilmen’s page.
The Oilmen will continue to play every day until Aug. 17 barring weather-related cancellations. They will host the Joliet Generals for two games following the Minutemen. After that, they will travel to play the Minutemen on July 7 for their first road contest of the season.
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