By Andrew Mild and Jim Masters
You wouldn’t believe the size of the crowd the Lake County Corn Dogs had for their first-ever home game on Thursday. Standing-room only? You bet.
The Corn Dogs delivered on and off the field: an affordable family fun experience that Majority Owner Ralph Flores promised from the day he chartered the newest team in the Northern League. All that and a 5-0 win over the NWI Oilmen at Legacy Fields in Crown Point, Indiana.
“The size and enthusiasm of the crowd exceeded well beyond our expectations,” Flores said. “I’m so proud of everyone behind the scenes who made this night possible — our ownership, sponsors, coaches, employees, volunteers and Crown Point Mayor David Uran.”
Flores added, “I’m happy for our manager, Justin Huisman, and these fine young men who make up our team. To play their first home game in front of a crowd like this, well, you could feel their energy and it certainly translated onto the field.”
The Corn Dogs took an early 1-0 lead, and the Oilmen traded scoreless frames until the bottom of the seventh inning when the Dogs scored four runs off of five walks and two hit batters to make the score 5-0.
Bryce Schaum started the game and went 5.2 innings for the Corn dogs, allowing one hit, a walk and striking out nine. Bret Matthys earned the save, finishing the game with five strike outs and allowing just one hit.
On offense, lead-off batter Gavin Terry picked up two hits and reached base on a walk in the seventh. He stole two bases and scored twice.
“It was a pitchers night,” Huisman said in his post-game press conference. “We made a few errors, but we picked each other up and just scored enough runs to win the ball game.”
He believed the team fed off the energy of the opening night crowd.
“It was fun atmosphere, with people having some beers and corn dogs and just having a good time,” he said. “It was a very minor league type feel, like when I played in the minors. The entertainment on the field was great and so was entertainment off the field.”
He hopes the home opener will set the tone for the season and show the fans that the Corn Dogs are serious about playing great baseball.
“We don’t even have our full team yet, but fans were able to see that these guys are gonna be fun to watch,” he said.
Still, there are growing pains for a newly assembled team in getting to know each other.
“I think both teams were kind of struggling to see the ball tonight, and I think (the lack of hitting) also had to do with getting used to the wood bats,” Huisman said. “I expect our pitching staff to be pretty strong, and know that we got a lot of guys who can hit the baseball.”
The Corn Dogs play the Oilmen at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Legacy Fields, 851 Center Ross Rd., Crown Point. Friday’s game is postponed due to rain and will be made up on Sunday at 3 p.m.