(June 28, 2021 – Plano, TX) It was wet and sloppy out Monday night at Graham Field on the grounds of Prestonwood Christian Academy and the weather appeared to translate into the play for the Spirits (45+) squad for a couple of innings before the team finally found a way to clean things up. The Royals Baseball Club struck quickly and often, scoring a pair of runs in each of the first three innings. Fortunately for the ghosts, the bats showed up and the team was able to stave off small challenges by the Royals the rest of the way to obtain a 12 to 9 victory in NTABL Masters League action.
Travis Hitzeman and John Hefner added a pair of runs batted in while Hitzeman and Kirk Sipila led the squad with a pair of hits each. Hitzeman and Hefner both added doubles, with both Hitzeman and Sipila finishing the night by reaching safely 3 times. Pitcher, John Holmquist went 4 innings and allowed only 4 earned on 9 hits as he picked up the victory after walking two and striking out 5. Five errors by the Spirits defense kept the game closer than it was, but the Royals proved they were a team capable of hitting the baseball.
After Eric McPherson walked in to start the game, he went on to steal second base and scored on an RBI single by Sipila to give the Spirits a 1 to 0 lead. Hitzeman followed with a single, but Shawn Lee grounded to third and the Royals were able to step on the bag and double-up Lee at first to complete a double-play. Patrick Bilgere then grounded out to end the inning. The Royals then bounced back with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first when Marcos Vidal led things off with a single and swiped second base. Michael Dossey then tripled Vidal home and after Rich Beller grounded out, Dossey scored on a passed ball before Holmquist struck out Robbie Martinez and was able to get Harvey Carlisle to ground out.
The score remained 2 to 1, Royals despite a pair of back-to-back singles by Chris Lewis and Brian Hackney with two outs before Earl German grounded out to end the Spirits attempt for additional runs. The Royals then added another pair of runs in the second when Marc Coll doubled deep to left field with one out. David Davis singled to move Coll to third and an RBI single by Jeff Jones scored Coll. Alex Benitez followed with an RBI single to score Davis before the Spirits were able to double-up Robert Trevino, Jr. to end the inning.
Down 4 to 1, the Spirits bats suddenly wakened with McPherson leading off with a single to start the third. Both Sipila and Hitzeman drew walks, but Lee impatiently swung at the next pitch to pop out to the Royals infield. McPherson would later score on a passed ball that allowed both Sipila and Hitzeman to advance and Bilgere also drew a walk to load the bags a second time. David Tipton was able to reach on a Royals fielding error that allowed Sipila to cross the plate and one pitch later, Hefner doubled to the wall and was able to advance on error by the Royals left fielder. Hitzeman and Bilgere were both able to score on the hit and Tipton was able to cross the plate on the same error. A sacrifice fly by Lewis scored Hefner and the Spirits held a 7 to 4 advantage before Hackney flew out to end the inning.
The Royals rallied for a pair in the third after Vidal reached on an error with one out. Vidal swiped second base and after Dossey drew a walk, Beller grounded out to push both runners into scoring position. Martinez made it count with a single that scored both runners and before Carlisle flew out to end the inning, the Royals cut the score to 7 to 6.
The Spirits then opened things up after tacking on another 5 runs in the fourth inning. The Royals turned to Martinez to pitch and Martinez was able to get German to fly out. McPherson then reached on an error and a single by Sipila put two on with one out. Hitzeman followed with a double to score both runners and Lee followed with an RBI single to score HItzeman. Lee went on to swipe second base and the moved to third on a single by Bilgere. Bilgere eventually took second base and two pitches later, Lee was able to score on a wild pitch from Martinez. Tipton drew a base-on-balls to put runners on the corners and after a balk by Martinez, Bilgere scored before Hefner grounded out and Lewis went down swinging. After 3 and a half innings played, the Spirits held a 12 to 6 advantage.
The Royals added a run in the bottom half of the inning when Steve Smith scored on an RBI single by Jones, but Holmquist struck out the final two hitters to kill the rally. The Spirits went in order in the top half of the fifth and then turned to Hitzeman for some mound work in the bottom half of the fifth. Hitzeman was able to get JT Crossley to ground out, but then walked Vidal. Dossey then grounded to Hitzeman and when Hitzeman turned to look for the double-play opportunity, he found Lee had been chasing the ball from shortstop as well. With no double-play option, Hitzeman attempted to get Dossey at first but the throw went awry and everyone was safe. Both runners moved over on a wild pitch and after Hefner attempted to clean up on the play, the ball sailed to the infield and allowed Vidal to score. Beller then walked but was later squeezed at second after Martinez was able to reach on a fielder’s choice after Bilgere attempted to complete the double-play. Dossey was able to score on the error, but Hitzeman was able to get Smith to ground out to kill the inning with the ghosts in front by a score of 12 to 9.
The Spirits offense was quiet in the sixth and after they turned to German to close things out, German set the Royals in order to seal the victory as the league’s two-hour time limit came into play. The victory keeps the Spirits in second place in Masters League Standings, still two full games behind the Dallas Cardinals. The Spirits return to action following the Independence Day holiday and will visit the Hurricanes on Monday, July 12 at 6:30PM. Click here for schedule details or to download the iScore Central app to listen live online.