By: Ryan Zimmerman
Lansing, Ill. – As they’ve always done, the MCL Minutemen (8-15) continued their offensive hot streak on Wednesday versus the Northwest Indiana Oilmen (15-7). However, they could not keep pace with their opponents as they took a close 10-8 loss.
“We played well all nine innings today,” manager Jack Murphy said. “I was proud of the players the entire time. We were locked in at the dish and put up good swings in every at-bat. They [the Oilmen] got to us at the end, which did us in, but we kept fighting and battled the whole way.”
For the fourth consecutive game, the Minutemen produced double-digit hits, finishing with 15 on the day. Of those 15, six were for extra bases, including four home runs from Brennan Brogni (Illinois-Springfield/Flagstaff, Ariz.), Ryan Howe (Purdue/Mount Prospect, Ill.), Lukas Broske (Lake Land College/West Bend, Wis.), and Patrick Doran (North Carolina Central/Chicago, Ill.). Doran’s long ball was his fifth on the season, extending his Midwest Collegiate League lead to two. They now have 11 in their last four contests.
“The guys have been swinging hot bats as of late,” Murphy said of his team’s recent power surge. “Now they’re starting to get more confident in the [batter’s] box. After picking up a bunch of line-drive hits, they’re starting to get underneath the ball a bit more and try to drive it out, and it’s working.”
On the mound, Jacob Frencl (Southeastern CC/Frankfort, Ill.) backed up his team’s bats and made his fourth start against the Oilmen. Just like his first three times, he was sharp, holding the opposition in check over seven strong innings. He allowed four runs to score (three earned) over nine hits, striking out six in the process. Of the 23 balls put in play against him, 16 resulted in weak contact.
“This was Jake’s finest outing,” Murphy said. “He made one bad pitch the entire game that resulted in a two-run double. He shoved out there throughout his seven innings and gave us a great chance to win.”
After falling behind early due to a three-run Oilmen first inning, the lineup responded quickly to erase the deficit. Brogni launched his home run in the bottom of the second and followed up via a run-scoring ground-rule double in the fourth. Broske singled him in the very next batter to level the score at three.
The two teams remained level through the sixth before the Oilmen started to pull away. An unearned run in the seventh and a weakly hit single in the eighth put the visitors up by a pair, but the Minutemen fought back to cut their newfound advantage in half. Howe crushed his home run to straightaway center field, creating a one-run ballgame with one inning remaining.
Despite the positive momentum, Oilmen hitters kicked into gear in the final frame, exploding for five runs and sending 11 to the plate. As three outs stood between the Minutemen and defeat, the Oilmen held a 10-4 advantage.
Down but not out, the Minutemen fought until the very end, thanks to a four-run rally. Broske kicked it off with an opposite-field home run. Christian Peña (Eastern Illinois/Davenport, Iowa) registered his third single, capping off a 4-for-4 performance. Howe drew a base on balls to set up Doran for a three-run shot to left field, decreasing the Oilmen edge to only two ahead of the final out.
“This loss was tough simply because the Oilmen were equal to us,” Murphy said. “But looking back, we played really well the whole time. We’ve been hot lately; this is our fourth impressive games in a row. Tomorrow we can make it five.”
The Minutemen head southeast on Thursday to Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind. to face the Crestwood Panthers at 5 p.m. Jon Zaghloul and Ryan Zimmerman will have the live call on the Crestwood Panthers Broadcast Network via Facebook Live.
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