By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 15, 2020 – If the Northwest Indiana Oilmen want to win their fourth Midwest Collegiate League Championship, they’ll have to come from behind to do so.
The Oilmen find themselves with their backs against the wall after dropping Game 1 of the best-of-three MCL Championship Series 8-4 to DuPage County on Saturday night at Oil City Stadium. The Hounds tagged Oilmen starting pitcher Connor Oliver (Wabash Valley / Oak Park, Ill.) for seven earned runs on seven hits and six walks in 3 1/3 innings, creating separation early in the game.
“He just didn’t have his stuff,” Oilmen manager Chris Cunningham said. “He didn’t have his command and was spiking fastballs; that isn’t him. He was good for us all year, so you go out with your guy. That’s baseball.”
On the flip side, the Oilmen were kept off balance throughout the night by a trio of DuPage County southpaws. It started with Seth Masters, who worked five innings and yielded two unearned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out eight.
“At least we’re not facing Seth Masters tomorrow,” Cunningham said. “That guy pitched a tremendous game. Hopefully we can come with a good attitude tomorrow, eke out a win and put some pressure on them for Monday. We have to have a different approach against their lefties and find a way to get some barrel on it. I can’t say enough good things about the Hounds pitching staff.”
The Oilmen pushed across single tallies in the second and fifth innings, but were hoping for more in the fifth with runners at second and third and nobody out. Tre’ Hondras (Michigan / Flossmoor, Ill.) tripled and scored in the seventh, then Nick Anderson (Arkansas Fort Smith / Highland, Ind.) drove in a run with his second hit of the day in the ninth.
Hondras, Anderson, Andre Demetral (Florence Darlington / Rochester, Mich.) and Tommy Windt (South Suburban / Orland Park, Ill.) had two hits apiece, but the biggest bright spot of the day came courtesy of Luke Pappas (Western Michigan / Chicago, Ill.). The left-handed reliever logged 5 2/3 innings after the abridged outing by Oliver, yielding just one run on four hits and three walks while striking out five. Pappas’ 95-pitch outing helped the Oilmen preserve pitching for the remainder of the series.
“We don’t have much pitching left with so many guys being back at school, so it was huge to get that type of length out of Luke tonight,” Cunningham said. “He did a tremendous job keeping us in the ballgame and giving us a chance.”
The Oilmen (24-11, 0-1) and Hounds (21-12, 1-0) will play Game 2 of the series on Sunday night at 6:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium with the Hounds serving as the home team and getting last at-bats. The Oilmen must win to force a decisive third game, which would take place at 7:10 on Monday. Tickets for Sunday’s matchup are available on NWIOilmen.com, and those who cannot attend can watch from home on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network via Facebook Live with Brandon and Andrew Fish on the call.
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