WHITING | The top of the seventh inning went from bad to worse to a total disaster for the Northwest Indiana Oilmen on Friday.
Holding a 4-2 lead going into that frame, the Southland Vikings ignited their offense for an eight-run seventh inning en route to a 10-5 win over the Oilmen.
The Vikings sent 13 batters to the plate in that inning, drawing five walks and recording five hits. It was the first time since July 22 of last season – ironically against the Vikings – that the Oilmen have given up eight runs in one inning.
“It's like a boxer who is about to be KO'ed,” Oilmen manager Justin Huisman said of being a pitcher in that situation. “You're just kind of dizzy out there. You're just mentally spent.”
Prior to the seventh inning, it looked as if the game would go down to the wire. Both teams traded runs in the third and fourth innings and were tied 2-2 until the sixth inning. Leiff Clarkson's solo homer to left center field gave the Oilmen their first run.
The Oilmen (17-8, 11-7 MCL) took their first lead of the night in the bottom of the sixth inning, as a sacrifice fly from Anthony Bova plated Nick Bartolone and a RBI-single by Rashawn Tillman brought Joe Houlihan home.
The loss spoiled a solid first six innings for Hanover Central grad and Oilmen starter Andy Wellwerts, who had seven strikeouts. However, Wellwerts walked the bases loaded to start the Vikings' seventh inning rally before giving way to Scott Jerge, who also struggled to find the strike zone. Jerge held the Vikings scoreless in the final two innings, however.
“We've got so many games coming up that we needed to leave Scott out there,” Huisman said. “Luckily he pulled it together. He showed us what he's made of. He got tough and put up some zeros.”
Clark grad Micah Rooke was a thorn in the side of Oilmen pitching all night long, as he got on base in all six plate appearances, drove in one run and scored another for the Vikings (13-8).
After going 0-for-3 in his first three at-bats, Tillman led the Oilmen with two RBIs out of the leadoff spot, snapping an 0-for-18 streak.
“He really needed those hits to boost his morale a little bit,” Huisman said. “He kind of went through the same thing a lot of the guys did at the beginning of the year, where they struggled and all it takes is a hit or two. All of a sudden, we were going off and getting a ton of hits. I fully expect these guys to do the same thing. Hopefully, it doesn't take too long.”