HOMEWOOD | Needing a win to force a third and deciding game for the Midwest Collegiate League title, the Northwest Indiana Oilmen needed a dominant pitching performance on Sunday night.
Lake Central product Jimmy McNamara was highly effective, but not nearly as dominant as Southland hurler Chris Chigas. The Phoenix College pitcher tallied 10 strikeouts over eight innings as the Vikings clinched the title with a 4-1 victory at Homewood-Flossmoor.
Chigas’ strong performance comes on the heels of a six-inning no-hit performance during the first round of the MCL playoffs last week.
“I just had everything working; was keeping the ball down,” Chigas said. “All playoffs I’ve been getting guys out. I’ve felt good the entire playoffs.”
McNamara scattered nine hits and had three strikeouts over seven innings while walking two, but the Central Michigan sophomore was unable to get any run support in the biggest game of the season.
“When (Chigas) is throwing like that, it makes us want to step our game up,” McNamara said. “We needed to play at a different level.”
The Vikings scored their first run in the third inning and added runs in both the fourth and the fifth innings before plating an insurance run off Aveeno Nasiloski in the eighth. Sean Beesley singled in the third inning and then reached third base after an attempted stolen base that ended in Oilmen catcher Ty Hogan throwing the ball into center field. Beesley later scored on a sacrifice fly.
Tempers flared in the fourth inning as Oilmen manager Justin Huisman voiced his frustration to the home plate umpire after Dan Potempa beat throw home for Southland’s second run. McNamara had to restrain Huisman and led his manager back to the dugout before striking out the final two batters of the inning.
“It’s been a while since I’ve gotten that worked up,” McNamara said. “I didn’t want Coach to get ejected. The whole environment changed after that.”
Chigas struck out the side in the first inning and added two more strikeouts in the second that started a streak of 12 straight retired batters. The Oilmen has runners in scoring position in four different innings, but couldn’t scratch any runs across the board until the ninth inning.
Alex Lesiak relived Chigas in the ninth inning and hit Leiff Clarkson to start the frame. After walking Andrean product Kenny Mahala and getting Nick Bartolone to ground out, Lesiak gave up a sacrifice fly to Craig Austgen. Lesiak then popped up Tyler Baar to end the game.
Emotions were high for both teams after the game as the Vikings were celebrating a title and the Oilmen were saying their final goodbyes after a long summer of playing together.
“Saying goodbye is tougher than losing,” McNamara said. “I feel like I had a good summer. I pitched well, but I made a lot of close friends. I’ll miss these guys.”