(November 17, 2022 – Euless, TX) The Spirits (40+) squad saw its season come to an end after the team fell to the Redbirds by a score of 9 to 7. The loss ends the DFW ABA fall baseball campaign, one which the team felt it had a shot at winning.
The Spirits took to the diamond with a skeleton crew of players and yet battled enough to make it a ball game. A 6-run third inning spoiled a 7 to 2, Spirits lead and the team wasn’t able to regain control.
The Spirits offense started off hot in the top half of the first inning after Kirk Sipila led the game off by reaching on an error. Shawn Lee grounded out and David Tipton flew out, but Brian Hackney kept the inning alive with a single to score Sipila, who had moved to second on the previous throwing error and to third on Lee’s ground out. John Hefner then took a 3-1 pitch to center field to move Hackney to third. Stacy Scott followed with a hard double to right-center to score both runners and the Spirits had a 3 to 0 lead before Brant Finchum went down swinging.
The Redbirds rallied for a pair of runs to cut the lead to, 3 to 2 after Jerry Gamez reached on a one-out error by the Spirits. Dustin Harrison then singled and Gamez scored after Eric McPherson struggled to get the ball into the infield. A wild pitch moved Harrison to third and a ground out by Philip Bosco scored Harrison to narrow the score.
Jonathan Duran drew a walk to lead off the second and after McPherson flew out, Sipila drew a walk after Duran had moved to second on a wild pitch. Lee singled to load the bases and a balk call against Redbirds pitcher, Scott Clawson allowed for Duran to walk across the dish. Tipton then went down swinging, but Hackney wore a Clawson pitch to reload the bases. Hefner then drew a walk to score Sipila, and an RBI single by Scott scored Lee to make it 6 to 2, Spirits before Finchum went down swinging to end the inning.
Duran, the Spirits starter and his defense held the Redbirds scoreless in the second despite singles by Mark Tierney and Lester Bedford. The ghosts then returned to offense to make it 7 to 2 in the top half of the third after Duran reached on an error and moved to second on the play. McPherson flew out and Duran was awarded third after a second balk call by the home plate umpire, who appeared to be working hard to implement himself into the game. An RBI single by Sipila scored Duran, but Lee went down on swings and Tipton grounded out to end the inning with the Spirits holding a 5 run lead.
Enter the bottom of the third. An inning that will live in infamy. The Spirits defense couldn’t seem to find an opportunity as the Redbirds rallied for 6 runs on 8 hits before the ghosts turned to Sipila to replace Duran to stop the bleeding. Sipila was able to get Harrison to fly out to end the inning after he previously earned a triple earlier in the inning after hitting a rocket that bounced off of the yellow line at the top of the wall in center field and stayed in the park.
The Spirits loaded the bases after a pair of hit batsmen and a single by Finchum in the fourth, but McPherson went down swinging with bases loaded and the opportunity was squandered. The Redbirds rallied for another run in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single by Bedford and the 9 to 7 score would hold the rest of the way. The Redbirds turned to lefty, Brent Smerczynski to shut things down in the fifth and he was able to get Sipila to ground out before the home plate umpire made an absolute egregious call against Lee that went down as a strikeout. Lee moved his hands slightly toward a tailing pitch from Smerczynski where the bat head literally remained in place, and the plate ump called it a swinging strike three. Tipton provided some life with a double, but Clawson was able to get Hackney on strikes to end the inning.
The game ended during the Redbirds at-bat in the bottom half of the inning due to the league’s 2-hour time limit, effectively ending the season for the ghosts.
“Tough loss for us tonight,” Lee mentioned afterwards. “We were missing some of our starters, includings some sparks like Eric Goetz, our ace pitcher, Duane Aponte, and of course our top hitter, Travis Hitzeman. Shawn Hunt, Will Nash, Bobby Korhauser, Aaron Wilson, and Earl German were also out, so we were missing some pieces. A couple of really bad calls tonight, but a couple of them helped us, one of them hurt. That’s how it goes. We had a few guys that didn’t play to their normal level tonight and that was a game changer. I really felt we could have one this fall session. Hats off to the Redbirds. They’re one of the best in DFW, if not the country. We’ll learn from it and move forward to changing things for 2022. I love playing ball with these guys, and it’s cliche and I say it often, but I’d rather play and lose with this group of guys versus winning with someone else. These guys are family.”
The Spirits will remain idle for the rest of 2021, looking forward to action next season as games begin in late February. Stay tuned to www.spiritsbaseball.com and also www.facebook.com/spiritsbaseballclub to follow the team. A special thanks to all of the contributors that make Spirits baseball possible, including all of our family, friends, wives, kids, and pets who all let the guys play the game they love.