By: Ryan Zimmerman
Whiting, Ind. – The MCL Minutemen (10-19) could not catch a break on Friday night against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen (21-9). The hosts took advantage of the chances the visitors never found, riding a five-run sixth to send the Minutemen packing with an 8-2 loss.
“Tonight is an example of what happens when you’re not mentally locked in for nine innings,” manager Jack Murphy said. “There weren’t too many good at-bats, we swung at a lot of pitches outside of a tight strike zone, we couldn’t time up the fastball. Overall, this is one I want to forget.”
Though the Oilmen struck early, scoring once in the first inning and twice in the third, Minutemen starter Matthew Lelito (Kankakee CC/Merrillville, Ind.) was solid on the mound. Those three runs were the only ones he allowed in his first five frames, all of which scoring on weakly-hit singles. He specialized in preventing good swings as 15 of the 21 batters he faced made soft contact.
“Matt put together a good outing,” Murphy said. “A couple walks hurt him, but outside of that, nobody hit him hard. He kept us in the ballgame, it’s just another quality start.”
Needing to spark their offense, the Minutemen responded in the top of the sixth. On the very first pitch of the inning, Ryan Missal (Western Michigan/Lowell, Ind.) launched a fastball over the brick monster in left field for his third home run in 2020, cutting the Oilmen lead to 3-1.
However, that momentum was short-lived. A series of walks, errors, wild pitches, and two hits gifted the Oilmen five tallies in the bottom half of the inning, only one of which charged to Lelito.
Cade Turner (Illinois-Springfield/Frankfort, Ill.) entered in relief in that sixth and held the opposition at bay. He worked three innings of one-run ball, permitting just two hits and two walks. Pitching for the 11th time this season, he showed why he’s been the most used arm in the Minutemen bullpen.
“This was another good outing from Cade,” Murphy said. “He’s been excellent all summer for us. After a bad outing last time against them [the Oilmen], he came back strong and held them in check. I enjoyed watching him bounce back.”
Down 8-1 with just three outs separating them from defeat, Mike Koszewski (Cincinnati/Oak Brook, Ill.) stepped up and used his baserunning skills to try and spark a comeback. He led off the ninth by singling to center field and promptly advanced three bases on two wild pitches, capitalizing on sloppy defense by the Oilmen battery.
However, the deficit proved too much to overcome. The Minutemen could produce nothing more at the plate, cementing a losing performance.
They will have their chance on Saturday as they return to Oil City Stadium to rematch these Oilmen, this time at 6:10 p.m. To go back to their winning ways, Murphy wants his squad to maintain their focus the whole way.
“We just need to focus,” Murphy said. “That’s all I’ve asked for all year. When we do that, we’re a hard team to beat.”
The game will be streamed on the Northwest Indiana Oilmen Broadcast Network via Facebook Live as Brandon Vickrey and Andrew Fish have the call.
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