Whiting, Ind. – Aug. 15, 2021 – Sunday’s final score will be a footnote in Northwest Indiana Oilmen history, but the memories and friendships created this summer on the Oil City Stadium diamond will last a lifetime.
The Oilmen fell 16-5 to the 2021 Midwest Collegiate League champion Joliet Generals in the third and decisive game of the best-of-three MCL Championship Series.
NWI owned an early 3-0 lead by jumping on the board with three in the first, but Joliet scored three times in the second and three more in the third. The hosts trailed by just a run at 6-5 through four frames, but the Generals exploded for five in the fifth and five more in the sixth as the game lost its competitiveness.
“I knew it was going to be a long game when Joliet started finessing very softly hit balls and finding holes or beating it out,” Oilmen manager TJ Marik said. “I also knew it was going to be a long day when we were hitting balls about 100 miles per hour right at them. That’s baseball. That takes nothing away from that Joliet team; they played really well. Michael Gould had a heck of a game and is a really good player. He has a really bright future. I had a lot of fun this summer, and our players did too. That’s what I care about most.”
The aforementioned Gould drove in eight runs including an inside-the-park three-run homer and an outside-the-park grand slam. Garrett Moran pitched the final five innings and yielded just one hit without permitting a run to help the Generals garner the victory. Joliet went from last place in the MCL standings in 2020 to earning the coveted league trophy in 2021 under first-year manager Joe Silva.
The Oilmen finished as MCL regular-season champions and tied the franchise record for winning percentage with a 24-11 mark.
“This group of guys was awesome to be around,” Marik said. “I enjoyed coming to the field every single day and it was because these guys were working hard and were fun to be around, especially after they opened up after about two weeks into the season.”
Several different Oilmen made significant strides over the course of the summer, including Anthony Fumagalli (Purdue Northwest / Plainfield, Ill.), who was battling back from an injury. During the playoffs, he posted a .427 batting average, drove in six runs and scored eight times.
“Christian Williams is somebody who comes to mind,” Marik said when asked who made the biggest improvements over the summer. “But I would say the biggest development I’ve seen is Anthony Fumagalli and that’s because he was coming off an injury. He was hitting the nine hole until a week or two ago and was able to move up as he was finding constant barrels. You could tell he was getting better after his partially torn PCL. It was awesome seeing that from him because he’s a guy I’ve known for a long time.”
The Oilmen finished out their 10th anniversary season with their seventh appearance in the MCL Championship Series including their fourth straight. They won their third MCL regular-season title after previously achieving that feat in 2017 and 2020.
“We built a culture from Day 1,” Marik said. “I remember the first day I was trying to be super loose and get everybody talking. Everyone refused to talk. By the end of it, it was to a point where I couldn’t get these guys to shut their mouths, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted these guys to build lifelong friends. I still talk to friends I have from playing summer ball. This was a very memorable group and I feel like many of these guys will be friends for a long time.”