By: Brandon Vickrey
A season that began with the worst start in franchise history featured the best ending imaginable as the Oilmen raised the Midwest Collegiate League championship trophy on Sunday afternoon.
To make a sweet moment even sweeter, the Oilmen won their first title since the inaugural season of 2012 by beating the rival DuPage County Hounds, winning Game 3 on Sunday 7-1.
“When we won five straight games in early July on the road, the attitude and feeling around the club changed to where we expected to win every day,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “Even after that, when we had a couple stretches where we weren’t winning every day, there was that feeling of expecting to win.”
The star of the day was incoming Purdue Northwest lefty Jordan Petty, who wasn’t bothered by pitching on three days of rest as he worked a 117-pitch complete game to earn the win. Petty goes down in Oilmen history, joining Andy Wellwerts (2012) as winning pitchers in championship-clinching games.
“Petty’s change-up is unbelievable,” Oilmen catcher Jake Perreira said. “He kept people out in front the whole game. He’s able to blow a fastball by them. His curveball was in command, and needless to say, he shoved.”
Petty racked up nine strikeouts and issued only one walk while limiting the Hounds to one run on six hits. The Highland graduate started the season in the bullpen before become a force to be reckoned with in the Oilmen rotation down the final stretch of the season.
“That was the plan with him all year, to slowly progress him into the rotation,” Enright said. “I didn’t want him to be a starter out of the gate after he was a big fish in a little pond in high school. We made sure his first situations weren’t high-pressure spots to get him acclimated out of the ‘pen. It was always my intention for Jordan to be a guy we could rely on.”
Perreira (University of Indianapolis / Grant Park, Ill.) was named the MCL Postseason MVP. He was not expected to receive much postseason playing time, but stepped in when Zack Forney went down with an injury in Game 1 against Joliet.
After hitting just .200 in the regular season, Perreira led the team in postseason batting average at .438, including two hits in Sunday’s clinching win.
“The day before we started playoffs, Tyler Sroczynski and I went out and took a couple rounds of BP,” Perreira said. “Everything just started clicking. After that, I thought I was seeing the ball really well. It seemed to work.”
The Oilmen struck first when back-to-back balks by DuPage starter and eventual losing pitcher Peter Hamot awarded Stefano Belmonte home plate in the top of the first. The Hounds responded in the bottom of the inning with a game-tying, two-out single by Brandon Post, but that would be the extend of the damage yielded by Petty.
Perreira scored the go-ahead run in the second inning when he singled and came around to score on an error. From there, the Oilmen made sure Petty had no shortage of support as they poured in three in the third and two more in the fifth.
Tommy Szczasny (Northern Illinois / Tinley Park, Ill.) launched a run-scoring triple in the third inning, then came in to score on a Chris Baker (South Suburban / South Holland, Ill.) single. The fifth-inning scoring came courtesy of Marshawn Taylor (Grambling State / Chicago, Ill.), who laced a two-run single.
After crawling to a 1-6 start and struggling to dig themselves out of the hole through the first month of the season, the Oilmen hit their stride in early July and then got hot again just in time for postseason baseball.
“The dugout will be the most memorable part of this season,” Enright said. “We had some characters. The Stefano Belmonte and Chase Fieldhouse banter going back and forth all year, ripping each other and never giving each other a break. Having those guys at each other’s throats, but in a fun way because they’re close friends, is something I’ll never forget. There’s been lots of good baseball over the five years, but the fun is what I’ll never forget. These guys made it fun all summer.”
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