By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – July 5, 2020 – Michael Machnic (Webber International / Highland, Ind.) didn’t take long to make a strong first impression on the Northwest Indiana Oilmen fan base.
Machnic started his Oilmen career in dream fashion, cracking a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the first inning in a 14-4 victory over the Joliet Generals on Sunday afternoon at Oil City Stadium.
“Starting out the at-bat, I swung out of my shoes at a horrible pitch,” Machnic said. “I battled back and got to a 3-1 count. I was looking dead red fastball and got to the pitch, an elevated fastball, and I was quick enough to get to it. I’ve felt good in BP the last couple weeks, so it was good to get into a game and see what I could do.”
The Generals (0-2) struck for three in the top of the first, but the Oilmen responded with seven in the bottom of the inning. The Oilmen also posted a six spot in the third en route to the triumph, marking the team’s first 2-0 start since 2015.
Machnic finished a triple shy of the cycle and drove in six, one away from an Oilmen single-game record that has stood since 2013 (Nick Bartolone).
“He got a fastball and put a really good swing on it,” Oilmen manager Chris Cunningham said. “He had a really good day. He’s one of those guys who keeps to himself and is a hard worker. That was a great swing of the bat.”
Conner Oliver (Wichita State [Wabash Valley] / Oak Forest, Ill.) was the winning pitcher after a three-inning start in which he allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits, while Joe Rotkis (Morehead State / Granger, Ind.) struck out six over four strong innings of relief. He needed on 51 pitches and permitted one run, which was unearned.
“I felt good,” Rotkis said. “I came off a tough start to my college career, so I told myself not to complicate things and just go out there and pitch like I know how to pitch. I was just going to go for as long as I felt good. It’s been way too long without sports, so this was awesome.”
Conner Tomasic (Purdue / Schererville, Ind.) allowed two hits and fanned three over two scoreless frames to seal the victory.
“Rotkis was unbelievable,” Cunningham said. “He was the MVP of the game for us besides Machnic. He was a huge boost for the team. I only had him down for three innings, so to get four innings on 51 pitches is huge.”
Tre Hondras (Michigan / South Holland, Ill.) had two hits and reached base four times, while Tyler Nelson (Indiana / Crown Point, Ind.) also finished with two base knocks. Machnic shared the team lead in hits (three) with his former Crestwood Panthers teammate Nick Anderson (Kankakee CC / Highland, Ind.), who lashed three singles and also drew a walk.
“I don’t think anyone is used to nine innings at this point, so guys are trying to get their legs under them,” Cunningham said. “Once we get in the swing of things, everything is going to be fine. Some of our players have never played nine innings, so it’s different. Seven, eight and nine are the championship innings, so you can’t have lapses. It’s different from high school, where it’s all about innings five, six and seven.”
The Oilmen (2-0) will battle the Generals again on Monday night at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. Brandon Vickrey and Alex Coil will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, which is available via Facebook Live. Tickets are available on NWIOilmen.com.
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