By: Ryan Zimmerman
Hammond, Ind. – Dowling Park served as the site of a baseball masterclass on Thursday evening. The MCL Minutemen (10-18) executed to perfection in all phases, blanking the Southland Vikings 8-0 in a shortened seven-inning contest.
“It’s so good to see them come out and dominate the way they did,” manager Jack Murphy said. “Everybody did their job at the plate, [Jacob] Frencl dominated, and we played error-free defense. Winning is always good, but it feels so much sweeter to do win like this.”
Though the offense provided plenty of run support, starting Jacob Frencl (Southeastern CC/Frankfort, Ill.) needed none of it. He dominated the Vikings lineup from start to finish in a shutout. Over his seven innings, he permitted just three hits and did not allow a runner past second base, striking out five to only one walk. Frencl retired 13 batters on three pitches or less and had five innings of 13 pitches or less, needing just 85 to go the distance.
“I had a great defense behind me,” Frencl said of his gem. “So, I figured if I attacked hitters and pitched to weak contact, they’ll make plays behind me. That’s exactly what they did today, all the credit goes to them.”
“Jake pitched an absolute gem,” Murphy continued. “He came out and threw the same way he’s done all year. He threw hard, threw strikes, mixed speeds, made his pitches, kept guys off balance. His hard work really paid off today.”
While Frencl’s outing garnered most of the attention, the Minutemen lineup did more than enough to back him up. In addition to their seven hits, they also drew 11 walks with all but one starter earning a free base. Every member of the batting order reached at least one time.
“The best games are the ones like today where I don’t have to think twice about the signs I give from the third-base coaching box,” Murphy said. “Everyone was locked in, taking good hacks, not chasing anything outside the strike zone. When we execute like that, we’re a dangerous team to beat.”
The Minutemen drew first blood in the second, kicking off a stretch of scoring in five of their final six turns at-bat. Brennan Brogni (Illinois-Springfield/Flagstaff, Ariz.) drew a leadoff base on balls and advanced two more via a Vikings error. Tyler Struck (Murray State College/Orland Park, Ill.) then delivered a line-drive single to left field, plating the first run. They doubled their tally one frame later when Mike Koszewski (Cincinnati/Oak Brook, Ill.) touched home following a wild pitch.
Owning a comfortable two-run lead, the Minutemen turned it on in the fourth, putting three runs on the board. Three consecutive walks to Lukas Broske (Lake Land College/West Bend, Wis.), Struck, and Ryan Missal (Western Michigan/Lowell, Ind.) loaded the bases before Brad Miller (Illinois-Springfield/Oak Forest, Ill.) knocked a single to right field, chasing in Broske. Koszewski took another free pass for Struck to score. Missal became the third tally on another wild pitch, extending their advantage to 5-0.
The offense went quiet in the fifth inning before roaring back to life for a pair in the sixth. Walks to Miller and Mike Bolton (Purdue/Calumet City, Ill.) and Miller set up Ryan Howe (Purdue/Mount Prospect, Ill.) who bounced a ball over the left-field wall for a ground-rule double. The next batter, Ryan McCoy (Wabash Valley College/Frankfort, Ill.) poked a single through the middle of the infield, sending Bolton home for the seventh Minutemen run.
MCL added one more for good measure in the seventh and final frame thanks to Struck’s heads-up play. He singled to center field and immediately stole second base. A few moments later, Miller stroked a base hit, scoring Struck for the second time.
Frencl went back to work in the bottom of the inning, punching out the final two Vikings he faced to close out his second victory, his squad’s 10th. The shutout marks the second for the Minutemen pitching staff in 2020 and their third complete game.
MCL has little time to rest as they head back to Oil City Stadium in Whiting on Friday at 7:10 p.m. to battle the Northwest Indiana Oilmen. In their fifth trip to the ballpark, Murphy believes the group’s newfound momentum can propel them to a positive result.
“These guys are really excited and ready to go,” Murphy said of the clubhouse energy. “I’m expecting another good showing. Tomorrow should be a lot of fun.”
Be sure to listen in on the Northwest Indiana Oilmen Broadcast Network via Facebook Live as Brandon Vickrey and Ryan Zimmerman have the call.
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