By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – July 30, 2020 – The bottom of the ninth inning has been nothing short of magical for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen when hosting the Southland Vikings this season.
The Oilmen put together their most improbable final frame yet, scoring four in the bottom of the ninth to walk off with a 7-6 victory over their nearby rivals on Thursday night at Oil City Stadium.
The Oilmen have walked off with a win all three times they’ve hosted the Vikings this season, this time thanks to Angelo Cantelo’s (Lewis / Blue Island, Ill.) single to cap a significant rally.
“I had struggled for four at-bats,” Cantelo said. “I wasn’t seeing the ball well at all today. I was looking for one pitch. He threw a pitch I could drive. (Manager Chris Cunningham) told me, ‘You’ve got it right here. Take your time, relax and pick your pitch.’ Chris has given me a lot of confidence. Even when I’m struggling, he finds a way to lift me up a little bit when I’m not having the best day.”
The Cantelo hit scored Tre’ Hondras (Michigan / Flossmoor, Ill.) for the winning run after Tyler Nelson (Indiana / Crown Point, Ind.) had been hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to tie the game at six. Nick Anderson (Arkansas Fort Smith / Highland, Ind.) had a base hit in an Oilmen inning that was aided by three walks and two hit batters.
“We struggled for eight and a half innings, but in the bottom of the ninth we put some good baseball together,” Cantelo said. “We don’t always hit early, but this is the third or fourth game in a row where we’ve put a whole bunch of runs up in the ninth inning. A lot of times we count ourselves out early, but luckily we’ve been able to come back. You don’t want to wait until the ninth inning to win a game; it’s a lot easier when you’re up by a lot of runs, but we got the win, that’s all the matters.”
The Oilmen scored two in the ninth on an Anderson single to beat the Vikings by that same score 7-6 back on July 17, and on July 11 the Vikings also held a late lead before the Oilmen tied it in the eighth and won it 4-3 on a Kendal Ewell (Eastern Kentucky / Calumet City, Ill.) walk-off hit in the ninth.
“We didn’t swing the bats very well the entire game,” Oilmen manager Chris Cunningham said. “You tip your cap to (Southland starting pitcher Jacob Goss), who threw six strong innings. We got a couple walks and hit batsmen before Angelo came up with the big hit. I’m happy for Angelo; he wasn’t having a great day, but he’s one of our best hitters. He’s a baseball guy and leader who loves the game. He loves the daily grind of everything. He brings a lot of energy and baseball knowledge to the table.”
The Oilmen used five different pitchers including Will Melby (Iowa Western / Munster, Ind.), who picked up the win for his first victory of the summer with a scoreless top of the ninth. Joe Tor (2-1) blew the save chance as he was charged with all four ninth-inning runs. Dan Trudeau also had a blown save, as he came in with the bases loaded and one away in the ninth and allowed all three inherited runners to score.
The Oilmen leaped out to an early lead thanks to Hondras, who smoked a solo homer to start the bottom of the first and cracked a sharp, two-run double to make it 3-0 in the second. It stayed that way until the Vikings (13-11) grabbed the lead with four in the sixth and added single tallies in the seventh and eighth innings.
Anderson and Hondras had two hits apiece on a night where the Oilmen were victorious despite totaling just six hits.
With help from Joliet knocking off DuPage County earlier in the day, Northwest Indiana (16-7) regained sole possession of first place in the Midwest Collegiate League standings on Thursday night. The Oilmen will welcome the Generals to Oil City Stadium for a 7:10 p.m. first pitch on Friday, which is $2 Miller Lite Pint Night. Tickets are available on NWIOilmen.com, and those who cannot attend can tune into Brandon Vickrey and Andrew Fish on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, which is available via Facebook Live.
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