NWI Oilmen ready for first MCL playoffs
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent July 30, 2012 11:48PM
Oilmen designated hitter Danny Britt singles in the fourth inning against the Illinois Lincoln's in Whiting Monday evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
NWI Oilmen vs. DuPage County
Season series — Oilmen 3-2
Schedule — Hounds at Oilmen, 7:10 p.m., Tuesday; Oilmen at Hounds, 7:10 p.m., Wednesday; Hounds at Oilmen, 7:10 p.m., Thursday (if necessary)
Updated: September 1, 2012 6:17AM
WHITING — In the franchise’s inaugural season, the NWI Oilmen will enter the Midwest Collegiate League playoffs as the No. 2 seed, taking on the DuPage County Hounds in a best-of-3 series that begins Tuesday night at Oil City Stadium.
The Oilmen finished the regular season with a 28-16 record, just one game out of first place in the six-team league.
“I knew we had a decent team but I didn’t really know what to expect from the rest of the league,” said Oilmen manager Justin Huisman. “There’s only so much you can tell about a team by looking at their roster.”
DuPage enters the series with a 22-20 mark in the regular season. The Hounds and the Oilmen squared off five times this summer, with the Oilmen winning three of those games.
Huisman offered a quick scouting report on the Hounds: “They can put up some runs and they have decent pitchers who can out-throw you. They also added a few players down the stretch that helped out a lot. If you relax, they’ll beat you.”
Naming pitching as the most important factor in the series, Huisman will send two of his top hurlers to the mound in the first two games. Josh Negele (4-1) goes on Tuesday, boasting the lowest ERA on the team (1.82) and the highest strikeout total (42). Danny Britt (7-1, 3.64 ERA) will pitch in Game 2 on Wednesday.
“We can’t get behind their hitters,” Negele said. “Whenever we get behind hitters, our pitchers don’t throw well on that day.”
The play behind those pitchers will be an important factor, too. NWI’s defense committed 78 errors in the regular season, while DuPage committed 110.
“We have to be solid on defense,” said Cody Dykema, who’s played shortstop and third base for the Oilmen while putting up a team-high .385 batting average. “In some games we’ve made five or six errors. That can’t happen if we want to win.”
On offense, the Oilmen will bring in the MCL’s highest-scoring offense, which was propelled by the league’s second-best team batting average of .287. DuPage will counter with its team speed, which led the MCL with 120 stolen bases. NWI was second in that category with 100 steals.
“We need to have good situational hitting,” said Elliot Bajda, who leads the Oilmen in runs scored (33) and stolen bases (17). “We’ve gotten away from things like moving runners or just going to the plate with a good approach that’s going to help the team.”
Game 1 is scheduled for a 7:10 first pitch on Tuesday. Game 2 will be at the same time on Wednesday at DuPage’s home field, Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill. If necessary, Game 3 will be back at Oil City Stadium on Thursday night.