Whiting, Ind. – August 3, 2013 – Behind a stellar pitching performance by starter Brandon White, the Southland Vikings handed the Northwest Indiana Oilmen a 7-2 defeat in game one of the Midwest Collegiate League semifinal series on Saturday night at Oil City Stadium.
White scattered eight hits over eight innings of one-run baseball, striking out eight and walking only one. Conversely, Oilmen starter Andy Wellwerts was tagged for five runs on seven hits and four walks in just three and two-thirds innings.
The Vikings took the lead with a run in the first and scored four more in the fourth, three of which were unearned after an error by Oilmen right fielder Craig Austgen. Later in the game, Kenny Mahala committed an error at third base that led to two more unearned tallies.
“You’d hate to say that things cost you the game,” Oilmen manager Justin Huisman said. “There are so many things that happened over the course of the ballgame. We did spot them five runs; two big errors could have gotten us out of innings without runs scored.”
Bishop Noll grad Danny Pobereyko allowed only two runs, both of which were unearned, in four and one-third innings of relief to keep the Oilmen in the game. Pobereyko’s effort allowed Huisman to keep the rest of his bullpen fresh for Sunday’s must-win game two.
“I didn’t want to burn him for that many pitches and innings,” Huisman said. “Now, he’s done for the rest of the series, but he was throwing so well and he was putting up zeros, so there was no reason not to ride him and give us a chance to come back.”
Jack Czeszewski stayed hot, following up his five-hit performance in the clinching game of the semifinal series against Lexington with a two-hit game on Saturday night. Ty Hogan, who went 2-for-3 and scored twice, was the only other Oilmen with multiple hits.
The Vikings finished with 12 singles and no extra-base hits as a Craig Austgen double stood as the only extra-base knock in the game. Dan Potempa lashed three hits and drove in three to lead the Southland offense.
According to Vikings head coach Chris Cunningham, two-out hits, good defense and White’s pitching performance were the keys to the game.
“You knew [Oilmen game two starter Jimmy] McNamara was coming tomorrow and he’s a hell of a pitcher so we wanted to jump on them,” Cunningham said. “They’re a darn good team, so we really wanted to jump on them and come out and swing the bats.”
In the history of the Midwest Collegiate League, all nine teams that have taken the opening game of a best-of-three playoff series have gone on to win the series. Prior to Saturday night, the Oilmen were a perfect 6-0 in postseason games over two seasons.
McNamara, a Lake Central High School graduate, will be opposed by fellow lefty Chris Chigas on Sunday night at 7:10 at Homewood-Flossmoor High School as the Oilmen try to force a game three. If necessary, the series will shift back to Oil City Stadium on Monday at 7:10 as Michael Steensen is slated to throw opposite Southland ace Aaron Hauge.
“You’ve got to worry about game two and I think both coaches are going to go for game two as much as possible,” Huisman said. “If we can win game two, I like our chances.”