By Andrew Mild and Jim Masters
In round one of the Northern League playoffs on Tuesday, the Lake County Corn Dogs beat the Joliet Generals, 3-1. The NWI Oilmen also won their playoff game Tuesday, and will meet the Corn Dogs at Legacy Fields in Crown Point for a two-game series on Wednesday (August 10).
Game 1 begins at 5 p.m., and game 2 will start at approximately 7 p.m. Both games will be seven-inning contests. If the Corn Dogs win both games, they will be Northern League playoff champs. If they split with the Oilmen, it will come down to a final playoff game in Whiting on Thursday.
The Corn Dogs already finished in first place for the regular season, posting a 35-11 record and finishing 8.5 games ahead of the Southland Vikings. The Corn Dogs will host the Oilmen by virtue of their superior regular season record.
Corn Dogs get on the board in the third
The Corn Dogs got the jump on Joliet in the third inning. With three straight hits, Hayden Matulitch drove in Scott Hanen to get the lead. A walk loaded up the bases, as the Corn Dogs manufactured two runs from a sac fly and a ground out. It’s 3-0 Dogs.
With two of the best offenses in the league, the numbers would tell you this game should have been a slugfest. Except, in the playoffs, the baseball tends to shrink to every hitter; the game was the complete opposite of a slugfest.
“Tonight it was a pitcher’s duel,” Manager Justin Huisman said in his post-game remarks. “Both teams threw the ball incredibly well. The strike zone was more like a pro-style strike zone tonight, so guys weren’t kind of used to that, but they battled through.”
Hobart High School graduate Ivan Balboa gave the Corn Dogs six scoreless innings on the mound. Although Balboa allowed four hits in the sixth inning, the Generals came up empty due to a double play and shortstop Tyler Schultz gunning out Christian Seegers at the plate.
“Ivan has been pretty lights out for us since he got here, so I knew that he was he’s a battling kind of guy and was going to go out there and give it his all,” Huisman said.
Dylan Matusak pitched the seventh and allowed one run. Bret Matthys closed out the do-or-die game and got the save. He was named the Macron Player of the Game with his performance.
Electric atmosphere for playoffs
Huisman said the Corn Dogs’ fans have helped charge up the team every game and create a great sense of belonging.
“I think we should remember just the whole community in general and the atmosphere it created around our players,” he said. “A lot of these guys know each other, grew up together, which created a lot camaraderie in the dugout and on the field. I think that the whole feeling that we put out there for everybody is something I’ll remember.
“You don’t win 35 games just on talent. I mean, you gotta have a day-in and day-out camaraderie in the dugout where guys are pulling for each other and caring for each other. You feel that the fans and all this around them really helped motivate and propel them toward the championship.”
Purchase your playoff tickets at corndogsbaseball.com.
Photo by Josh Brunette