(September 8, 2017 – Dallas, TX) The Dallas Spirits (45+) squad saw its season come to a screeching halt on Friday night as the team ran into a hurdle in the form of the 9-8 Cubs. The hurdle, which may have appeared to be small based on earlier season match-ups proved to be a large one, one good enough to knock the Spirits out of the playoffs in NTABL Masters League play.
Despite earlier season wins of 7 to 5, and 15 to 1, the Spirits imploded in an earlier playoff game losing 8 to 4 to the very same Cubs team. Determined not to let that happen again, a combination of scheduling and player availability seemed to have a role in what eventually became the dagger in the 2017 season. The Spirits showed up with just nine players and without four of their top eight hitters in the lineup. The Spirits started the game offensively with a lead off walk from Brant Finchum, but the free pass was a fruitless gift as Cubs pitcher, Jay Keeton was able to get both Eric McPherson and Patrick Bilgere to ground out before striking out Kirk Sipila.
John Holmquist took the stage for the Spirits defensively, and was able to get Jesse Low to ground out before the Cubs bats came alive for 3 straight singles from Dennis DeCapua, Rob Medel, and Lester Bedford. Bedford’s single was good enough to score DeCapua and the Cubs had an early, 1 to 0 lead. Holmquist and his defense settled and were able to get Keeton out on a fielder’s choice and Mark Coll to ground out.
Down 1 to 0 in the second, the Spirits mustered another base on balls, however Keeton delivered with another fly ball and a pair of ground outs to keep his early no-hitter intact. Holmquist struck out a pair of hitters in the bottom half of the inning, while giving up a hit to Michael Carrigan that went nowhere.
Finchum and Bilgere each reached in the third, but again the Spirits failed to plate a run. The Cubs took advantage of the lack of Spirits offense by adding another run in the third after Low reached on an error and DeCapua picked up his second hit on the night. Holmquest was able to get both Medel and Bedford to fly out, but Low was able to score on an error by McPherson and the Cubs led 2 to 0 after 3 complete innings of play.
Although things appeared grim for the ghosts, there were able to find an offensive heartbeat in the third after Guy Koenig led fourth inning off with a single. Koenig was given second base due to defensive interference and later advanced to third on a Keeton wild pitch. Chris Lewis took advantage of the running in scoring position by following with an RBI single to put the Spirits on the board. Dennis Gonzalez followed with a single to push Lewis to third, but Keeton was able to strike out Jack Nash to slow down the Spirits rally. Holmquist attempted to aide his own cause with a good at-bat that saw two foul balls, but Keeton challenged with a crafty payoff pitch to catch Holmquist looking for out number two. Finchum followed and appeared he may draw a free past to first after getting ahead in the count, 3-0, but Keeton delivered a needed strike but the following pitch wasn’t enough as Finchum drove it to the outfield for an RBI single. Lewis was able to score on the hit and Gonzalez also made his way to the dish on an error by Bedford. Keeton was able to get McPherson swinging to kill the inning, but the Spirits had a 3 to 2 lead.
The Cubs tied things in the bottom half of the fourth when Frank Phillips singled and Carrigan reached on a Spirits error. Marc Patterson later singled and scored Phillips and the game was tied at 3. The Spirits had an opporutnity to regain the lead in the fifth when Sipila singled with one out and stole second. Koenig walked and both runners advanced after Lewis grounded out, but Keeton was able to get Gonzalez on a ground out to once again kill a Spirits rally.
Sipila came in to relieve Holmquist in the bottom of the fifth and looked like he’d fulfill his typical role of being the solid go-to for the Spirits as he struck out the first Cubs hitter he faced, however Bedford was hit by pitch and the Cubs followed with three straight singles by Keeton, Cole, and Phillips to score another pair of runs and to gain a 5 to 3 lead.
With the time running down based on the league’s two-hour time limit, the Spirits offense ran into a wall as Keeton and company were able to get Nash to fly out and both Homlquist and Finchum to ground out to seal their ticket to the league’s championship against the Dallas Orioles.
“It’s always going to be a downer when you finish the season with a loss,” mentioned Sipila following his team’s loss. “Especially a loss when we believe we’re the better team. Only one team ends the season with a win, and this year apparently isn’t ours. We wish the Cubs and Orioles the best of luck in the Championship. John (Holmquist) did his part on the bump tonight with five strong innings, allowing 3 runs, only one of which was earned. Finch (Brant Finchum) had a big hit and a walk filling in at the lead off position and Lewis had a big hit for us to score a run. Unfortunately, the rest of the team combined for only 3 hits and that’s not going to get it done. We just could not get that timely hit with runners in scoring position. Credit the the Cubs defense and their pitcher, Jay Keaton. I’m sure as time passes we will look back on the season and be proud of some of our accomplishments. I personally would like to thank all the guys for a strong effort this year and look forward to the 2018 campaign!”
Game Box Score
Waxahachie Autoplex Players of the Game