UPDATE: Sunday’s playoff game is cancelled due to rain. Game 1 against the Indiana Panthers will be played Monday at 7 p.m. at Legacy Fields.
By Noel Fary
Now that the Lake County Corn Dogs have clinched the regular season title again this year, the ball club has secured homefield advantage during the upcoming 2023 playoffs and is aiming to repeat as Northern League Champions.
Corn Dogs Make Good on their Pledge to the Community, Fans
In just their second season as a franchise, the Corn Dogs have cemented themselves not only as the most dominant force in the Northern League, but as a staple in the Crown Point community. The stands are crowded at Corn Dogs home games, with fans enjoying winning baseball along with the between-innings games and promotions. The Corn Dogs organization has certainly cultivated a family-fun vibe at Legacy Fields while delivering on its mission of “building community though baseball.”
After an inaugural season where everything went right, the bar sat high for the Corn Dogs headed into 2023. Following it up was no easy task, but once again, the Corn Dogs came through.
“I’m proud of every person in this organization,” Majority Owner Ralph Flores said. “It’s a team on and off the field, and we’re so pleased with how the fans and community have embraced us.”
Hot Mustard on the Bats
The Corn Dogs lead the Northern League in almost every offensive category, including batting average, RBIs, and on-base percentage. The same goes for pitching, with the team leading the league in ERA, strikeouts, and runs allowed.
Although the Corn Dogs record does not quite match up with their 2023 season, their performance at home this year has been phenomenal, posting an 18-2 record while playing at Legacy Fields. Many players express their enjoyment playing for the team, including Doug Loden. He battled his way back from injury to play baseball for the first time in months with the Corn Dogs, having a breakout year for the team in 2022.
“It’s been a journey,” Loden said. “It had been about a year and a half since I threw full speed on the mound.”
Loden is a crucial part of the Corn Dogs success this season, including many others. The Corn Dogs had a remarkable 13 players selected to the All-Star game this year during an intensive summer schedule.
The Corn Dogs had four members win the Northern League Player of the Week Award this season. Ray Hilbrich, Hayden Matulich, Loden, and Tyler Schultz received the honors, with Hilbrich, Matulich and Loden all being unanimous selections.
Kevin Hall and Ranko Stevanovic are two of the Corn Dogs’ most dynamic contributors this season. Hall is the definition of reliable leading off the batting order. In fact, he sits atop the Northern League in batting average at .359, and also has the second-most stolen bases. If the Corn Dogs need a man to get on base, Hall is the guy.
Stevanovic came to the team at the very end of the 2022 season, helping the team win their first championship, and continued his string of success into this season. Stevanovic’s lucky number must be 3. He is (as of Aug. 1) third in the league in batting average at .323, third in RBIs with 32, and third in home runs with 3. Stevanovic regularly finds himself in the heart of the Corn Dogs order, driving players home in clutch situations.
Outfielder Owen Winters joins Hall and Stevanovic being named to the 2023 All-Northern League team.
Pitching Pins Down Opponents
The Corn Dogs pitching staff has kept them in big games all season, posting great numbers and keeping opposing offenses at bay. Key members Ryan Troxel, Dylan Matusak, Adam Walters and Jake Thometz are key pieces of an excellent overall pitching rotation. Troxell was also named to the All-Northern League team this week.
Even with a shaky middle of the season, the Corn Dogs pulled it together late, and recently completed a 9-game winning streak. Corn Dogs manager Justin Huisman feels pleased with his team’s performance this year and with the show they put on for their community.
“It’s top to bottom. I mean, we put together a great team, obviously,” said Huisman, who was named Northern League Manager of the Year again this season. “The organization itself, the in-game activities, the PA, the music, everything outside of the field, is contributing to the overall experience.”
The job is not quite finished yet for the 2023 season, as the playoffs approach, the Corn Dogs look to stay hot and repeat as Northern League Champions.
Win Streak Snapped at Oil City
The NWI Oilmen pitching shut down a red-hot Corn Dogs offense on Wednesday, allowing just two runs through the first six innings and five for the game. The Corn Dogs, 32-13, struggled at Oil City Stadium all summer, dropping their final visit of the regular season.
Despite the loss, the Corn Dogs are six games ahead of the Oilmen in the standings with one to go.
The Corn Dogs held the Oilmen scoreless in four innings, but the damage done proved to be too much. Kevin Hall and Owen Winters both had multi-hit games, but the Corn Dogs offense could not string enough hits together to keep up.
Corn Dogs Fight Back Against Miracle, Finish 33-13
The Lake County Corn Dogs came back from down 6-0 against the Elkhart County Miracle on Thursday, winning the game 9-7 and ending the regular season on the right foot.
Corn Dogs relief pitching came through on an unusual day for the Corn Dogs defense. Jake Thometz, Adam Walters, Zach Zychowski, Scott Hansen, and Will Melby held the Miracle to just 1 run through the final 8 innings of the game.
Hansen took a trip around the defense last night, playing all nine positions throughout the entire game.
The Corn Dogs slowly chipped back against Miracle, with a deep drive that resulted in an error by Owen Winters and a three-run home run by Doug Loden making the difference and turning the tide of the game.
Loden earned himself Macron Player of the Game, going 3-5 with 3 RBIs.
Watch Corn Dogs playoff action on Facebook Live.