By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 17, 2020 – An offensive showcase for one inning turned into a pitchers’ duel for the other eight on Monday night at Oil City Stadium.
When the dust settled from a climactic third game in the best-of-three Midwest Collegiate League Championship Series, it was the DuPage County Hounds holding the trophy after a 5-3 victory that saw all of the scoring occur in the opening inning.
The Hounds jumped on the board with a five spot in the first against Oilmen hurler Tommy Windt (South Suburban / Orland Park, Ill.), but the right handler settled in to get through 6 2/3 innings while yielding just the five runs (four earned) on nine hits and one walk while striking out three.
“It was one of those tough first innings with a few seeing-eye singles and a really good safety squeeze,” Oilmen manager Chris Cunningham said. “We did a nice job of chipping away in the first inning to cut it to 5-3, but we were shut down after that.”
After allowing five in the first, the Oilmen responded immediately with three in the bottom of the inning. The first five NWI batters of the game reached base, highlighted by a two-run double by Tyler Nelson (Indiana / Crown Point, Ind.). Windt helped himself with a run-scoring single. After the first five Oilmen batters reached, a string of 19 straight hitters were sent down by DuPage County lefty Jordan Smevoll, who eventually earned the win after allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out six.
“You’ve got to tip your cap to Smevoll,” Cunningham said. “He pitched an outstanding game. You can’t say enough about their left-handed pitching staff. They owned us all year. We’ve seen them enough, but you have to tip your cap to them. The best team won.”
Conner Tomasic (Purdue / South Suburban / Schererville, Ind.) followed Windt on the mound for the Oilmen and racked up six strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings, striking out six of the eight batters he faced while yielding just one hit to keep the Oilmen in the game.
“I thought it was Conner’s best outing,” Cunningham said. “He looked really good and had electric stuff. The guy lives for that moment. It was perfect for him with a good crowd at a key time; he relishes that. He gave us a chance to win a baseball game, and we just didn’t come through.”
The Oilmen were held to just five hits on the season’s final night, but had plenty of production throughout the season, leading the MCL in batting average and on-base percentage on their way to the regular season championship.
“We were one of those teams where you didn’t know which guy was going to step up; different guys came through over the course of the season,” Cunningham said. “I had a very fun time; it was a good group of guys to coach. I can’t say enough about them. Playing as many games as we did in so few days was a tough task, but our guys answered the bell and played hard.”
The Oilmen received outstanding pitching over the final two games of the series, an appropriate way to close out the year for a stellar pitching staff that led the league in ERA.
“Our pitching staff was dominant,” Cunningham said. “We received excellent pitching from start to finish. You can’t say enough about that. It was a good season on the mound.”
Plans are in the works for the Oilmen 10th-anniversary celebration during the 2021 season. Although they fell short of a championship, the Oilmen accomplished the goal of aiding players in their baseball development yet again during the 2019 campaign.
“Who knows what’s going to happen with sports going forward, so it was great that our players were able to get work in,” Cunningham said. “The hitters are not going to go back and say they didn’t get enough swings in with as much BP as we took. Hopefully guys can go win jobs, and that’s the goal for everyone.”
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