By: Brandon Vickrey
DuPage County Hounds (21-12, 1-0)
vs. Northwest Indiana Oilmen (24-11, 0-1)
MCL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME 2
Aug. 16, 2020 • 6:10 p.m. • Oil City Stadium • Whiting, Ind.
Broadcast: Oilmen Broadcasting Network (Facebook Live)
On Sunday night, the situation is simple for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen – win, or see the season come to an end. After an 8-4 loss to DuPage County in Saturday’s Game 1 of the Midwest Collegiate League Championship Series, the Oilmen find themselves with their backs against the wall entering Sunday’s second game of the best-of-three set. Meanwhile, DuPage County can close out its second MCL title and first since 2015 with a victory.
Pitching Matchup – Northwest Indiana RHP Mike Madura (Purdue Fort Wayne / Munster, Ind.) vs. DuPage County LHP Ryan Louck (Maryville University / Plainfield, Ill.)
- The Hounds own a 42-40 lead in the all-time series that dates back to the first game in franchise history for both squads in 2012. This marks the third time in the last five years these two teams have faced off in the MCL Championship Series with the Oilmen hoisting the trophy in both 2016 and 2018.
- All five pitchers who took the mound in Game 1 of the series were left-handed, including three Hounds hurler. A pitching staff loaded with southpaws is expected to feature more of the same on Sunday.
- This marks the seventh time in Oilmen history they’ve dropped the first game in a best-of-three postseason series. Just once, the 2019 MCL Semifinals vs. Southland, have the Oilmen stormed back to win the series in three games. They’ve been swept on three occasions and forced a third game only to lose on two others.
- This marks the fifth time the Hounds have won Game 1 in an MCL postseason series. They have gone on to win the series in each of the other four instances, twice sweeping the series and twice winning in a third game.
- The Oilmen finished the regular season ranked first in the MCL in team batting average (.270), on-base percentage (.399) and ERA (3.90).
- The 2020 season marks the latest date on the calendar for an MCL game in the history of the league. The unusual season had its opening day pushed back from Memorial Day Weekend to July 4 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Oilmen manager Chris Cunningham previously managed in the league and won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014 with Southland before a five-year hiatus from the MCL. He’s seeking his third “straight” title in his last three seasons working in the league.
- Ben Caple, the 2018 MCL Manager of the Year, is in his fifth season as Hounds skipper and his ninth on the DuPage County coaching staff. He is seeking his first league title as a manager as the last championship for the Hounds came in 2015, the final season under Sean Osborne.
- The Oilmen have won at least one postseason game in seven of their first eight seasons. They’re look to avoid their first winless postseason since 2014, when they made a first-round exit after back-to-back losses to DuPage County in Justin Huisman’s final season as manager.
- After becoming the first NWI pitcher to win five games in a season since 2016 (Sam Geraci and Christian Howell), Mike Madura gets the ball for Game 2 on Sunday night. He finished 5-0 over seven starts during the regular season, striking out 40 to finish second in the league in that area behind Jack Guzek. Madura boasted a 2.55 ERA while issuing just eight walks over 35 1/3 innings. He faced the Hounds on Aug. 6 and allowed two runs on six hits and no walks while striking out six over six innings, receiving no decision.
- This isn’t Madura’s first rodeo in a must-win game for the Oilmen as he started the decisive third game of the MCL Semifinal Series at Southland on Aug. 8 of last season and was the winning pitcher as the Oilmen held on for a wacky 11-10 win. He allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits while striking out seven and walking none in a quality start to help the team preserve the season.
- Between the 2019 regular season, 2019 postseason and 2020 regular season, Madura has appeared in 17 games and made 13 starts for the Oilmen while never incurring a defeat. He holds a total record of 9-0 in an Oilmen uniform.
- DuPage County pitcher Ryan Louck went 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA while striking out 34 and walking eight in 23 innings spanning six starts this season. This will mark his first outing against the Oilmen.
- The Oilmen are making their sixth MCL Championship Series appearance after previously reaching the final series in 2012, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. This marks the first time in franchise history they’ve reached the final in three consecutive seasons.
- The Hounds are making their fifth appearance in the MCL Championship Series but they’ve won the title just once over their first eight seasons and are seeking their first league trophy since 2015. The Hounds also reached the Championship Series in 2014, 2016 and 2018, falling to the Oilmen in each of their last two trips.
- This marks the fifth postseason series between the two teams and the third time (all in the last five years) they’ve faced off with the title on the line. The Oilmen have won three of the first four postseason series, with DuPage County winning a semifinal set back in 2014.
- The Oilmen beat the Hounds 12-1 in the final regular season meeting on Thursday, locking up their second MCL regular season title and first since 2017. The Oilmen won four of the seven meetings in this year’s regular-season series, winning the head-to-head for the first time since 2017.
- DuPage County has bounced back nicely from the first losing season in franchise history in 2019. Both of these teams have made the playoffs in each of their nine seasons in existence.
- All three games in this series will be played at Oil City Stadium. The Hounds will have last at-bats on Sunday, while the Oilmen will have last at-bats in the series finale on Monday if it gets that far.
- NWI’s Tyler Nelson finished as the league leader in hits with 42. Nelson also finished as the league leader in RBIs with 29, driving in a run on the final day of the regular season to edge out Ryan Howe of the Minutemen (28). Nelson had three multi-hit outputs in his last four regular-season contests and drove in 10 runs over his final five regular-season games.
- The 2020 Oilmen roster features representatives from numerous Division-I institutions including the following conferences: Big 10, American, Ohio Valley Conference, Missouri Valley Conference, Horizon League, Mid-American Conference, Summit League and the ACC.
- The Big Ten is well represented on this year’s roster, with players from five different conference members on the squad – Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa.
- This marks the Oilmen’s first season under the direction of Chris Cunningham, who is the fourth manager in team history. Cunningham is no stranger to the MCL, as the former professional ballplayer in the Tampa Bay Rays organization managed the Southland Vikings from 2011-2014. In his final two seasons, the Vikings won back-to-back MCL championships.
- Oilmen legend Matt Pobereyko is serving as the team’s pitching coach this season. He racked up an MCL-record 18 career saves in 2013 and 2014 including a single-season MCL record 13 in his final campaign with the Oilmen. Pobereyko is an active professional pitcher and has reached as high as Triple-A.
- As usual, the Oilmen are loaded with local talent. Three Oilmen players graduated from Andrean High School, one from Highland, three from Griffith, one from Valparaiso, two from Munster and two from Lake Central. Expanding to Illinois high schools, two Oilmen competed at Brother Rice, one at Oak Forest, one at Marist, one at Marian Catholic, three at Homewood-Flossmoor, one at Carl Sandburg, one at St. Rita and one at St. Laurence.