WHITING | Kenny Mahala spent last summer playing for the now-defunct Illinois Lincolns, keeping his game sharp during the college offseason.
The Andrean grad and Highland resident knew he needed a new summer home for baseball, and he's found it in the Northwest Indiana Oilmen lineup.
Mahala didn't display his well-known power hitting Sunday. He had two strikeouts, scored a run and was hit by a pitch in a 10-3 win over the Michigan City Lakers. Simply put, you can't be on all the time.
“He definitely provides some power in the middle of the lineup,” Oilmen coach Justin Huisman said. “He plays a good first base and can even play third base for me. He's a versatile player with a big lefty stick; what every coach wants.”
Though Mahala was off, he was backed up by his teammates in an 18-hit offensive onslaught. Catcher Tyler Baar led the Oilmen with three RBIs to help Hanover Central grad Andy Wellwerts, who had a solid outing with three earned runs in six innings.
For Mahala, coming to play for the Oilmen this summer was an easy decision for a few reasons. Oil City Stadium in Whiting is much closer to home than playing in Joliet last summer, and it allows Mahala to work construction and remodeling during the day with his father, Ken.
“It's a lot more convenient,” Mahala said. “It only takes 15 minutes for me to get here. I love this field, that's why I decided to play with these guys. You can't play at any better place for summer ball.”
It also helps having a Heartland Community College teammate and a good friend in Lake Central grad Cody Dykema on the team. Dykema was a big part of why the Oilmen were able to pick up Mahala this summer.
“We discussed it quite a few times throughout the season,” Mahala said. “I asked him if he was going to play with the Oilmen again. I texted (Huisman) and he said he had a spot for me.”
Mahala has been slowed down a bit by a sprained left wrist suffered by an awkward tag made at first base in an earlier game this summer. He said it's a bit sore still, but a tight wrap job allows him to play without difficulties.
Mahala said one of the biggest benefits of playing in the MCL is the abundance of left-handed pitchers he faces. As a left-handed hitter, facing lefty pitching has been troublesome for him in the past.
“This league has actually improved my game so much,” he said. “After last summer with the Lincolns, we saw tons of lefties. Then I went to Heartland and I had no problem seeing lefties. It's really improved that side of my game.”