By: Brandon Vickrey
Whiting, Ind. – May 27, 2018 – Name tags won’t be necessary for many of the Northwest Indiana Oilmen players when they take the field for Opening Night on Monday at Crestwood.
That’s because manager Adam Enright has assembled a group filled with familiar faces who have either played for the Oilmen in years past or competed for other Midwest Collegiate League clubs.
No face is more familiar than that of right-handed pitcher Christian Howell (Trinity Christian / Aurora, Ill.), who will join Zack Jones as the only players in Oilmen history to appear in four different seasons. Howell will become the first player to pitch in a game in four different years for the Oilmen and could be the first player to play four complete seasons.
Chris Baker (Trinity Christian / South Holland, Ill.) is back to roam the Oil City Stadium outfield for the third consecutive year, while catcher Jake Perreira (University of Indianapolis / Grant Park, Ill.), pitcher Jordan Petty (IU Kokomo / Highland) and outfielder Cory Krolikowski (Minnesota Duluth / Bartlett, Ill.) all return from the 2016 MCL championship squad.
Infielder Jackson Dvorak (South Suburban College / New Lenox, Ill.), catcher Hunter Thorn (Purdue Northwest / Portage, Ind.), pitcher Max Franklin (Heartland CC / Chicago Heights, Ill.) and utility man Tommy Farrell (UIC / Chicago, Ill.) are all back for their second seasons after making their Oilmen debuts in 2018.
Players who started their MCL careers with three of the other five MCL teams are on the Oilmen roster this season. Pitcher Connor Spear (UW Whitewater / Highland, Ind.) and infielder Tyler Kenjic (Purdue Northwest / Hobart, Ind.) come to NWI after helping Southland to a league title last season. Outfielder Nick Figus (Illinois Wesleyan / Frankfort, Ill.) migrated from the Bloomington Bobcats, while Dvorak played for Joliet in 2016 before becoming an Oilman.
As the Oilmen have continued to entrench themselves as a strong summer option for players, Enright has received more and more phone calls from people inquiring about spots on the team with each passing season. This year, Enright’s roster filled up fast, causing him to turn away more players in April and May than ever before.
“Trying to get the level of talent you know you need to be successful and compete to win the league and win in the postseason has become a much less stressful process,” Enright said. “The word has spread that playing for the organization is a really good experience in a really competitive league. For the guys in the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana area, it’s exactly what every collegiate baseball player wants and needs to further their careers and get the exposure they need.”
Despite the fact that turnover is the norm in summer baseball, 12 players on the Oilmen have played in the MCL previously. That still leaves a large contingent of newcomers, including speedy infielder CJ Deshazer (Heartland CC / Schaumburg, Ill.) and switch-hitting infielder Jake Plastiak (Wichita State / Tinley Park, Ill.).
“I’m really excited for the guys we have coming in,” Enright said. “Hopefully these younger guys who are in their first year will like it enough to stick around as long as these other guys who have been with us almost the whole time I’ve been the manager.”
The strength of the Oilmen on the mound will be experience, as this year the team has players up and down the pitching staff who logged significant innings during the spring instead of players who are coming out after redshirting or pitching sparingly.
“Almost all of the pitchers on our roster have served as starters,” Enright said. “This year is going to be a little different with how things go rotation-wise because everybody is going to get some starts. I didn’t try to get a certain amount of starters or relievers; I just wanted guys who we can rely on to throw 5-7 innings per week and get outs for us.”
After a 2017 season that saw the Oilmen share the MCL regular season title and enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed for the first time in team history, the organization will look to sustain its regular-season success and increase postseason prosperity this season. Prior to last year’s first-round playoff exit, the Oilmen captured the MCL title in 2016. The Oilmen have reached the MCL Championship Series three times and won twice. They’ve advanced to the MCL Playoffs in all six seasons they’ve been in existence.
Enright enters his fourth year as the manager of the club after shattering the franchise record for wins by a manager last season. The season begins with six consecutive road games, starting on Monday at 7 p.m. at Crestwood. That leads up to the 2018 home opener against DuPage County on Tuesday, June 5 at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium.
The first week of Oilmen home games will feature an exciting slate of events that includes Friday Night Pint Night on June 8 against Joliet and a T-shirt giveaway on Saturday, June 9 against Bloomington. Visit NWIOilmen.com to purchase tickets or for more information.
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