Bloomington, Ill. – Aug. 9, 2019 – For the second consecutive series, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen find themselves entering Game 2 in must-win mode.
The Oilmen dropped the opener of the best-of-three Midwest Collegiate League Championship Series 12-4 to the Bloomington Bobcats on Friday night at O’Neil Park. The Bobcats broke the game open with a five-run seventh against an Oilmen team that was using numerous players out of position due to a roster depleted by injuries and departures.
“Colin Walton gave us everything we asked him to and more,” Oilmen manager Kevin Tyrrell said. “He gave us seven innings worth of outs; we just didn’t make plays for him. He was awesome. We didn’t play well enough for us to earn a victory. We’ve got a million excuses, but we would have had to play a lot better, even if the Bobcats didn’t play as well as they did, to beat anyone tonight.”
The Oilmen turned to Walton (Robert Morris / Midlothian, Ill.) - who hadn’t pitched since July 6 - as the team’s starting pitcher. He allowed six runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks while striking out eight in five innings to take the defeat, but did his job of giving the team a chance to win. The Oilmen defense committed four errors behind him.
“He had 32 days off, and I was expecting for his stamina to not be there, but he seemed to get better as the game went on,” Tyrrell said. “He figured it out when he had trouble. He knew tonight was his last outing before fall ball, and he gave us everything he had.”
The Oilmen were limited to three hits as they couldn’t fully capitalize on a Bobcats pitching staff that issued six walks and hit five batters. The Oilmen received a walk, an error and a hit batter in the third but didn’t score after also leaving the bases full in the second. Bloomington pitching allowed a walk and two hit batters in the sixth, but again escaped without damage.
“We didn’t get the timely inning, and we cost ourselves a big inning when we got the leadoff man aboard in the sixth and got picked off,” Tyrrell said. “That was huge for momentum, and that’s where they got their confidence from. We may have had a big inning if we didn’t get picked off to start that inning.”
The Oilmen got out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to two RBIs by Clay Thompson (Kankakee CC / Schererville, Ind.), one on a ground out and one on bases-loaded walk. The Bobcats got four runs on three hits, two walks and an error in the bottom of the second to take the lead.
Starter Jack Gilmore picked up the win for Bloomington after allowing four runs (three earned) on three hits and five walks in five innings. Reliever Karson Aherin did not allow a hit and walked just one over four innings to garner the save.
The Oilmen find themselves in familiar territory, needing to rally from a game down much like they did in the MCL Semifinal Series against Southland.
“Timely hitting is the key,” Tyrrell said. “We’re not going to play spotless defense, but if our pitchers put the ball in play like we did tonight, we can make it through nine innings and we’re going to have to score seven or eight runs. We didn’t do that tonight because we didn’t get those timely hits. We stranded key runners in the second and third innings, and that was big. Hopefully the guys remember what it was like that first series and that we’re not out yet.”
The Oilmen will host Game 2 of the MCL Championship Series on Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. NWI must win to force a Game 3 on Sunday in Bloomington, while the Bobcats can secure their first MCL title with a victory on Saturday. For those who can’t attend, Jon Zaghloul (filling in for Brandon Vickrey) and Blake Toman will have the call beginning at 7 on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, which is available via Facebook Live.