By: Ryan Zimmerman
Whiting, Ind. – To cap off their first year in the Midwest Collegiate League, the MCL Minutemen (12-22) went out with a bang, putting together one of their most well-rounded performances. Another shorthanded lineup gave the Northwest Indiana Oilmen (24-11) fits, but the hosts pulled out a 6-5 win.
“It felt great to coach these guys one last time,” manager Jack Murphy said. “Especially considering the way they played tonight. This was one of their best games, and we had four pitchers in the lineup. Watching these guys play all summer long was an honor; the effort never wavered, and nobody took anything for granted on the field.”
The Minutemen came out of the gates strong by stringing good swings together, picking up from where they left off on Thursday. Just three pitches into the ballgame, Ryan Missal (Western Michigan/Lowell, Ind.) deposited a fastball over the right-field wall, registering his fifth home run. Ryan McCoy (Wabash Valley College/Frankfort, Ill.) then walked ahead of a Brad Miller (Illinois-Springfield/Oak Forest, Ill.) double, setting up Ryan Nelson (Eastern Kentucky/Aurora, Ill.) to drive in his team’s second run through a ground out.
However, the Oilmen stormed right back. Two runs scored on three hits to tie the matchup at two after just one inning. Not content to be tied, the Minutemen wasted no time restoring their advantage in the top of the second. Nic Vitiritti (Carthage College/Lansing, Ill.) legged out an infield single and advanced to second base on a Mike Koszewski (Cincinnati/Oak Brook, Ill.) walk. Missal capitalized on the situation once again, slapping a base hit to right field to place his team ahead 3-2.
“Missal has been playing with a ton of confidence lately, and it shows,” Murphy said of his center fielder. “He started hitting well a few days ago and carried on from there. He’s been racking up good at-bat after good at-bat, and tonight was no different.”
The Oilmen responded in the third inning, taking advantage of an out-of-position Minutemen defense to tally two unearned runs. A two-out error sparked a mini-rally, resulting in another lead change, this one making the score 4-3.
Facing another deficit, the top of the Minutemen order went to work to draw them level with the Oilmen in the top of the fifth. Koszewski led off by drawing his 20th base on balls, giving McCoy the opportunity to do damage. He crushed a triple to straightaway center field, plating his team’s fourth run and evening things halfway through.
Having no margin for error, starting pitcher Jeremiah Williams (South Suburban College/Calumet City, Ill.) stepped up and held the Oilmen at bay. He racked up another three scoreless frames on the hill, permitting only four runs (two earned) to score on eight hits over seven strong innings while striking out three.
“Jeremiah gave us one heck of a start,” Murphy said. “He would have conceded a lot less runs if we had actual infielders backing him up. What really stood out to me was that he didn’t walk anyone, he didn’t let any batter get on base for free. He attacked the entire time and never got fazed; whenever he gave up a hit, he just shook it off. It’s more of the same for him, I’m happy to see him finish off strong.”
Though his day on the mound concluded in the eighth, Williams remained in the contest at third base, swapping positions with Vitiritti. The move ultimately proved costly, as the Oilmen broke through to grab a late edge. A two-run double succeeded two borderline walks, forcing the Minutemen to play from behind just three outs away from defeat.
Nevertheless, facing the prospect of playing their final MCL inning, the Minutemen refused to quit. Nelson took the first pitch of the ninth inning over the right-field fence, shaving the Oilmen edge to one. A Caden Bell (Purdue Northwest/Hammond, Ind.) base hit and Vitiritti walk installed the tying and go-ahead runs on base, striking fear in the hearts of the hometown fans.
Unfortunately, that’s where the Minutemen magic ran out. A strikeout and hard-hit double play eliminated the comeback opportunity, ending their season in defeat.
Despite the negative result, Murphy used his last postgame huddle to share his appreciation for his squad’s efforts.
“I told them how proud I was of them today and throughout the year,” Murphy said. “There were very few times where I got disappointed about the way they played. They competed so hard and never gave up on themselves or their teammates. I told them that if they keep playing the way they did this summer, they will all be starting at their respective schools come springtime.”
As the curtain falls on the 2020 season, the MCL Minutemen would like to thank the fans for all their unwavering support. They hope to return to action in 2021 and fight for their first league championship.
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