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Staying competitive : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Staying competitive
Michigan City poses new challenge for Oswego Cats

by Laura M. Medina


Every season, it's the Oswego Cats' goal to play as many competitive non-league games as possible. Sometimes, that requires scheduling matchups against teams they've never faced.

In their first-ever meeting with the visiting Michigan City Lakers, the Cats earned a doubleheader split, dropping the opener 3-0 and winning the nightcap in dramatic fashion 5-4 in nine innings, on Sunday afternoon.

Over the previous three seasons, the Chicago Suburban Baseball League has welcomed associate members Homestead, Joliet and Romeoville, respectively, to its ranks. The Chicago Angels are the newest associate members looking to join the CSBL.

As the competition has continued to change, so, too, has Oswego's non-league schedule, which ultimately helps the team prepare for its projected postseason run. Michigan City entered as a highly-regarded opponent and did not disappoint in its first visit to Jackie's Field of Dreams.

"They were a good team with more of a collegiate feel, but they played well and had really good pitching," Cats field manager Todd Miller said.

"In game one, we outhit them, but we couldn't get the big hit when we needed it. In game two, we tied it at two in the seventh to go to extras and ended up getting three more in the ninth."

In game one, the Cats (12-10, 9-7) played the Lakers tough, edging them in the hits column eight to six despite taking the loss.

Right-hander Kelse Gengler (North Central College) gave up all three runs in the third along with five hits and a walk in four innings. He also struck out three in his outing. Right-hander Ryan Millan (Elmhurst College) came on in relief, surrendering one hit and one walk while fanning four in three innings of work.

Ryan O'Dell (Edgewood College) went 3-for-4 with two doubles on the day, while Rick Tormey (Hamline University) finished 2-for-2.

"We got good pitching, and it was good that the guys that were there got their opportunities (at the plate). Guys are starting to figure out their spots," Miller said.

Michigan City jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning of game two. With single runs in the fourth and seventh, Oswego was able to extend the game to extras.

After a scoreless eighth, the Lakers tacked on two runs in the ninth, but the Cats rallied with three in the bottom half, getting the game-winning RBI on a pinch-hit single by the veteran Miller.

O'Dell went 1-for-2 and Anthony Amedei III (Aurora University) went 1-for-4, and each had an RBI in the victory - the Cats' third in four games overall.

"We understand what winning is, and we're starting to take that more seriously," Miller said.

Against the Lakers, left-hander Kyle Doney (Waubonsee Community College) bounced back after a tough outing in his last start (an 11-1 loss at Quad Cities on June 21) to toss four innings of three-hit ball. He gave up two runs and three walks, while also striking out four.

Right-hander Dominick Tatone (Judson College) pitched the next two innings, giving up two hits and striking out four in relief. Right-hander Brent Bergeson (Aurora University) gave up two runs in the ninth, but he was bailed out by the offense to earn the win. He gave up two hits and three walks (one intentional), while also fanning three in the final three innings.

Miller again expressed satisfaction in his team's pitching staff, which has combined for a respectable 2.98 team ERA. But the one area in which he is hoping for improvement remains on the offensive side, where the Cats are hitting just .280 despite amassing 127 hits - second-best in the CSBL - and a league-leading 69 RBIs.

Though Oswego sends a similar lineup to the plate every game, it is possible that some changes will be made as the team plays a busy stretch of three doubleheaders in five days.

"We may need to move some guys around to different spots," Miller said. "The nice thing about Sunday was that we could do some different things at the plate. We really need them to step up.

"We need to have better at-bats. It's just frustrating; you've gotta know the situations you're in, and I think that's where the lack of hitting and lack of production comes from. We're overanxious."

Miller is hoping that opportunities versus Joliet on Saturday and Homestead on Sunday will provide his players with more consistency at the plate. Oswego also played a rare weeknight twinbill on Wednesday, but results were unavailable at press time.

"Hopefully, we got one of these guys back in the swing of things this week," Miller said. "They'll possibly get 25 to 30 at-bats in the six games, and that's really big."

Earlier this season, the Cats dropped a road doubleheader at fellow North division foe Lombard (13-1) on June 1 and also swept a doubleheader at home versus struggling Homestead (2-13-1) on June 22. Meanwhile, they'll be facing South division-leading Joliet (9-3) for the first time this summer.

"One swing can change the complexion of these games," Miller said. "We can take any team on any day, and anybody can beat anyone on a given night. But we need to play solid baseball.

"Overall, we're doing pretty well for how young we are. Can we do better? We can, and I truly believe we will. We have 17 games left, and I believe we can take a dozen of them. Let's see where everything goes from there. Making plays in the field, at the plate or on the mound - that's where we can come together as a team."

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