WHITING — After Thursday's Midwest Collegiate League semifinal win over Southland, Oilmen manager Kevin Tyrrell said he was essentially out of pitchers.
Much of the team is hurt or has returned to school, and the Oilmen relied on multiple position players to toe the rubber on Thursday and Friday — allowing 22 runs in the process. So Tyrrell turned to Tyler Laux, who hadn't pitched in over a month, for Saturday's MCL finals Game 2 against Bloomington.
Naturally, Laux, his brother, Brandon, and Anthony Hernandez kept the Oilmen in the game by scattering five hits and allowing two unearned runs.
The trouble was the Oilmen only got two hits themselves. Bloomington won 2-1 to sweep the series.
“They gave us a chance to win, and that's all we could've asked for,” Tyrrell said. “I also think the best team won. Those guys were playing their best baseball at the end.”
After the defensive disaster in Game 3 of the MCL semis against Southland on Thursday, Tyrrell reached out to the pitchers who had shut it down for the summer, hoping someone could chip in. Tyler Laux had been taking summer classes in Houston, where he pitches for Prairie View A&M, but was slated to fly back to Chicago on Sunday for a break.
Tyrrell and Oilmen owner Don Popravak asked Tyler Laux if he could make it back in time for the finals, and Laux obliged by moving up his flight. The righty woke up at 5 a.m. for an 8:15 a.m. flight, then tossed 4 2/3 innings of two-hit ball.
“I knew we were down in pitching and I had to get as deep as I could in the game before I passed it to the next guy,” Tyler Laux said. “The key for me and my success was getting ahead, because it allowed me to get them off-balance and swing at more things than they would in a hitter's count.”
Hernandez took the ball from there, throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings before Brandon Laux went the final three. The Oilmen played three first basemen in the infield due to roster losses and committed five errors to spark the Bobcats. Joe Rycerz played third base for the first time since his sophomore year at Andrean.
The hosts jumped in front in the first when Ben Berenda's groundout to second scored Michael Bolton from third. Bloomington didn't respond until Austin Biehl sprinted home on a wild pitch to make it 1-1 in the fifth.
Jake Marti singled with two outs in the top of the eighth and beat Cole Cervantes' throw home after an error to score the go-ahead run.
Patrick Doran advanced to second with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but Gabe Pulido flied out and Joey Byers froze Rycerz on a nasty breaking ball to end the threat. Rycerz whipped his bat toward the home dugout with a look of disgust on his face, while Byers celebrated.
“We just couldn't put it together, hitting-wise,” Rycerz said. “We tried our best, and at the end of the day, it's summer ball.”