06/23/2018 11:50 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 23, 2018 – On Police and Fire Appreciation night at Oil City Stadium, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen did their local heroes proud by downing the Crestwood Panthers 8-2.
The Panthers registered seven hits against the four Oilmen pitchers they faced, getting at least one runner on base in every inning. But as they have done all season long, they could not turn those early-inning baserunners into runs.
“The team’s hitting talent has to take over at some point,” Panthers manager Isaac Valdez said. “Although our team does not have many true heart-of-the-order hitters, we have a lot of grinders at the plate who don’t have the greatest pop but can work counts and get on base that way, this team is full of capable hitters that just aren’t getting the job done. We have to start stretching out the lineup and some guys just need to get hot real soon.”
Ethan Klay (Lincoln Land CC/Springfield, Ill.) took the mound for the Panthers, making his third start on the season. He was gifted an early lead following an Evan Bell (Memphis/Oak Park, Ill.) RBI single in the first inning, but Klay allowed six consecutive singles to the first six Oilmen hitters he faced to kick off his outing, turning a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit. The Oilmen would push across one more run in the bottom of the first on a bases-loaded infield single, ending the first inning with a comfortable 4-1 lead.
After his rough first inning, Klay would settle in and retire nine of the next 10 hitters he faced including three strikeouts. He would give up one more run in the fifth inning. Klay would depart after five innings pitched allowing five earned runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out five.
To add to the Panthers offensive woes, the team went 1-3 on stolen base attempts against Oilmen catcher Hunter Thorn. Additionally, they ran themselves into outs at costly times. In the top of the seventh inning with runners on first and third base and no outs, down 5-1, Colton Rydlewski (Albion College/Schererville, Ind.) laid down a successful safety squeeze to cut the deficit to 5-2. However, the momentum boost was short-lived as Andrew Stone (Undecided/Chicago Heights, Ill.) tried to advance to from first to third on the play and was easily thrown out for the second out of the inning.
“This is a very young team,” Valdez said. “We have quite a few players who just graduated high school or finished their freshman year of college. The play Andrew tried to pull off is one you can make in high school more times than not, but at this level, you’ll get thrown out every time. That’s part of the learning process for these guys, they need to know what they’re capable of on the basepaths and which plays they can and can’t make.”
Directly following the baserunning mistake, the Oilmen would score three runs on Panthers reliever Chris Torres (Wabash Valley CC/Chesterton, Ind.), who made his team debut. After pitching a scoreless sixth inning, he allowed three hits in the seventh, including a two-run home run off the bat of Jake Perreira, ultimately putting the game out of reach for the Panthers at 8-2.
Torres would go on to pitch a shutout eighth, as his day would end after working three innings of three-run baseball, allowing three hits and four walks, also striking out two.
The Panthers return to action tomorrow against the Joliet Generals at Joliet Junior College at 1:00 p.m. In order for his team to come out on top, Valdez believes his players just need to trust their talent.
“These guys just have to trust the process and trust their abilities,” Valdez said. “These are really talented college-level baseball players, they didn’t get to play in college by accident. They’ve all been there before, they have all the tools to succeed in this league, now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
You can catch all the action tomorrow on the Joliet Generals YouTube channel. Ryan Zimmerman will join Generals play-by-play broadcaster Sam Oppenheim on the call.