Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 2, 2022 – It wasn’t the method of clinching that they had hoped for, but the bottom line is this: The Northwest Indiana Oilmen are in the 2022 Northern League Postseason.
The Oilmen opened a five-game, season-closing homestand with an 8-3 loss to the Lake County Corn Dogs on Tuesday night at Oil City Stadium, but the Southland Vikings beat the Crestwood Panthers 9-5, helping Northwest Indiana clinch a playoff berth. The Panthers have been eliminated from playoff contention as the four-team field for next week’s postseason is set with the Oilmen, Corn Dogs, Southland Vikings and Joliet Generals poised to take part.
The Oilmen extend their streak, having qualified for the postseason every year throughout the team’s 11-season existence.
“Every year there’s a little bit more pressure to not only develop players, but to win, because of the tradition of winning here,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said. “Not only our players and the people in our organization know that, but everyone else in the league knows that, too. The more we continue to win and continue to put ourselves in a position to win a league championship, the better opponents play and the more effort we get out of them against us. That’s good for our guys because we can send them back to their schools after seeing everybody’s best day in and day out.”
The Oilmen got another solid start from incoming high school freshman CJ Byrdak, who received no decision after allowing two runs on six hits in five innings. He has established himself as the top pitcher in the Oilmen rotation despite having just finished his senior year of high school this past spring.
“I may not have pegged him as the ace of our staff, but I knew he was very polished as a high school player before the summer season started,” Enright said. “Knowing that his dad is an MLB veteran, he’s going to have better tutelage and insight at home to be better than most high school pitchers. I knew he was going to be a guy who could throw lots of strikes and command the ball down in the zone.”
The Corn Dogs (32-11) started the scoring with a two-out single in the top of the first, then NWI tied the game on a sac fly by Chazz Clark in the second. The Corn Dogs went back in front in the third with another two-out tally that made it 2-1. The Oilmen gained a 3-2 lead after run-scoring hits by Sai Robinson and Cain Headrick in the sixth. That came as part of a three-hit day for Robinson, helping lead an Oilmen offense that also saw Mark Ross reach base in each of his first three plate appearances.
The Corn Dogs put up crooked numbers in each of the final three innings to pull away for the win. They won the game 8-3 and took the 11-game season series by that same count.
“With the playoffs coming up next week, over these final six games we’re trying to do some things with our pitching that keeps some guys fresh and ready for next week,” Enright said. “We don’t want to overtax those guys we rely on heavily out of the pen. We tried to stretch Kyle Tyler for a second inning in his first outing, and it didn’t go as well as we’d hoped. We’re being mindful of pitch counts right now and lining everything up for Monday, because the playoffs are what everybody remembers.”
The Oilmen (22-21) are currently in fourth place in the Northern League standings and hoping to overtake the Generals for third by the end of the week. They host the Southland Vikings in a key game on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. at Oil City Stadium. Tickets are available now on NWIOilmen.com. Brandon Vickrey and Leo Staudacher will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network.