(September 20, 2016 – Carrollton, TX) It appears some things aren’t meant to be. Perhaps a cliche phrase to use for a stunned Spirits (35+) team who saw their season come to an end the same way it started, falling at the hands of the QHT Brewers. The squad appeared to be saving their top arm, Craig Molldrem for the next round, but had plenty of confidence in their other pitching as they took the field in the elimination game versus the Brewers. However, it appeared to be the Brewers who were both poised and determined to take a victory home with them Tuesday night at Graham Field located at Prestonwood Christian Academy.
The Brewers not only outscored the Spirits, but also out-hit the team by a total of 9 hits to 6 on their way to what turned out to be an unusual victory by a final score of 6 to 5. The Brewers started off quickly after Fernando Barba singled and stole second. Gregory Anderson singled scoring Barba and pitcher Jonathan Duran was able to strike out the next two hitters leaving a 1 to 0 score after the first half of the inning. Brewers pitcher Bodie Wilson showed some determination behind his pitching and set the Spirits down in order to end the first.
Jody Nicewonger singled to open the second for the Brewers and Jeff Whanger walked. Mark Adams doubled deep to left scoring Nicewonger, and Whanger went on to score on a single by Steve Ramirez. The Spirits remained poised, but there was a sense of doubt in the air as they approached the bottom of the second. Shawn Lee struck out to start the inning and Duran singled. Brant Finchum drew a walk and John Show reached on a fielder’s choice, squeezing Finchum at second. The throw to first during the same play was errant as the Brewers attempted to turn two, and Duran was able to score and the throwing mistake sent Show to third. David Tipton then followed up with a single to score Show, but the Brewers were able to stop the bleeding and the score was 3 to 2 after two innings of play.
The Brewers tacked on another run in the third and in the fourth before setting the Spirits down in order again setting the score at 5 to 2 after four complete. The Spirits followed suit with Jason Bottonfield taking Duran’s place on the mound and the game continued to the bottom of the sixth. Cliff Brade led things off with a single and then stole second and third. Bottenfield then singled keeping Brade at third and stole second to start the inning with 2 runners in scoring position. Lee then singled to right scoring Brade and pushed Bottenfield to third. Lee stole second and Duran grounded out scoring Bottenfield and advancing Lee to third. In the strangest of scenarios, the Spirits tied the game on a balk call against Wilson, which scored Lee and the game was tied at 5 to 5. There was little argument after Wilson stepped back with his left foot and then proceeded to treat it as if he was stepping off the rubber. After a short consultation by the umpires, Lee was awarded home and the Spirits had a new ball game.
“We thought we were back in it,” noted Lee following the playoff game. “It was an unusual circumstance, but we were happy to take it considering we weren’t playing to our ability. I’m not sure what we were missing up to that point in the game, but I could feel the sense of uncertainly within the dugout and that run seemed to lift us a bit when we were able to tie it. I was hopeful at that point we’d finish the job.”
Unfortunately, it didn’t appear that fate was in the hands of the Spirits this evening. The number 7-seeded Brewers came up in the top of the seventh inning with Steve Ramirez, who slapped a slow roller toward there after barely getting a bat on a Bottenfield fastball. Spirits third baseman John Show chased it down and made a great throw toward first, but it was just enough to pull first baseman David Dillon off the bag. Ramirez was replaced with a faster courtesy runner, who took second after a Bottenfield strikeout and passed ball. Brent Webber grounded out sending the runner to third and the Spirits were poised to close the inning with no harm done. Wilson, who pitched a great game up to this point then swung and missed at a 3-2 slider by Bottenfield that bounced past Brant Finchum who was catching. The ball bounced back off the backstop and before any play could be made, Wilson was safe at first and Adams, who ran for Ramirez came sliding home for the go-ahead run.
“It was surreal,” continued Lee. “Not sure what kind of baseball Gods have it in for us to tie and then go down that way, but it was brutal.” The Spirits still had the bottom half of the inning to win it, however Wilson was able to set the Spirits down in order to seal the victory and abruptly ended what was a fantastic season for the Spirits.
“I’m not really sure what to say following this one,” mentioned an obviously frustrated Lee. “Hats off to the Brewers for being determined I guess. I don’t know why they seemed to want it more than us, but that’s the tone I felt throughout the evening. I feel like saying the ‘right’ words here is cliche. I mean, you want to be a good loser, but sometimes that’s hard to do. Baseball is pretty cruel. We pitch Craig and I think it’s a different outcome. Nothing against my other pitchers, they were great too, but we seemed to be missing that poise we’ve had all season tonight and it’s tough to accept. I’ll admit, I’m not a good loser. I know this hurts for most of them; all of them probably. Obviously we’re extremely excited for our future, but I don’t feel that the better team won. The better team tonight won, I’ll give them that. But hopefully we learn something and take it with us moving forward. That’s a tough way to end a season. That’s the best I’ve got.”
Season 5 for the Spirits within NTABL Veterans League play baseball yielded 14 wins against 5 losses. The team batted .362 and earned 53 walks compared to 88 team strikeouts. They managed 139 runs scored on 197 hits with a total of 31 extra base hits, leaving an average of over 7 runs scored per game alongside just over 10 hits per game.
The Dallas Spirits Baseball Club thanks you for your support in 2016 and looks forward to upcoming events and the team’s fall ball squad for some additional stories. Stay tuned to the team website and Facebook page for announcements, information, and options for purchasing team swag.