(April 25, 2018 – Grand Prairie, TX) The Spirits (18+) squad enjoyed an opportunity to play at a new venue on Wednesday night, as the team traveled to Grand Prairie and played host to The Dark Horse at Air Hogs Stadium, home of the Texas Air Hogs in NTABL Open National League action. The game featured a solid match-up between pitchers, as Dillon Smith hurled for the Horse, while last year’s top NTABL Open National League pitcher and award winner, Duane Aponte took the hill for the Spirits.
The game followed the atypical pitcher’s duel for a handful of innings before the defense of The Dark Horse really found some difficulty fielding. The Spirits offense was held to 4 hits on the night, but was able to breach a 1 to 1 tie in the fifth inning and capitalize further in the sixth behind a few key hits and 8 errors by the Horse. Eric Goetz and Holden Novak were the only two Spirits hitters to plate runners, each with one RBI as the Spirits battled to a 6 to 1 victory under the wet, cold darkness of Grand Prairie skies.
The scoring started in the bottom half of the second when Novak reached on an error and stole second. JR Rivera drew a walk. DJ Carassco reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Rivera at second, however Novak was able to score on a throwing error when the Horse tried to turn two. Brian Butler then doubled in the top half of third to start off The Dark Horse third inning, and later scored on a single by Brandon Smith. Aponte was able to focus and get Jacob Martinez to fly out to kill the rally and the game was tied at one after two and half played.
The duel remained back and forth with both pitchers playing shut down baseball until the bottom half of the fifth inning. Rivera reached on another Horse fielding error and advanced to second on a bad throw. Carassco reached on an error by the Horse shortstop, Jake Morrow that was good enough to score Rivera and give the Spirits a 2 to 1 lead. Carassco also reached second on the shortstop’s error and later scored on another fielding error that allowed JP Seider to reach safely.
Holding onto a 3 to 1 lead, Spirits manager, John Showalter turned to the former MLB pitcher, Carassco to finish the job defensively. Hayden Stallings led off the top of the sixth with a single off of Carassco, but Carassco promptly struck out Brandon Smith and was able to get Morrow to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play.
The Spirits tacked on 3 more insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning after Cliff Brade reached on an error, stole second and then reached third on a wild pitch. Kyle Redinger grounded out and Goetz singled to score Brade. Goetz reached second on a throwing error and then advanced to third after Teddy Croft reached safely on a dropped third strike. Novak then reached on a fielder’s choice to squeeze Croft, but the play was good enough to score Goetz to put the ghouls up 5 to 1. River then singled to push Novak to second and Novak later scored on a pair of wild pitches to give the game it’s final score.
Despite a lead off single by Jacob Martinez to start The Dark Horse seventh, Carassco followed by striking out Conner Tobias and picked up out number two after Brian Kellner reached on a fielder’s choice that squezed Martinez. Carassco was able to get Smith to ground out to end the game.
“The game was really more of a battle than the final score displayed,” mentioned Showalter after the victory. “Dillon Smith really put together a great outing for The Dark Horse tonight. We only managed 4 hits off of him, but the game really came down to defense. We played flawlessly on the field and unfortunately for them, they had a rough night with 8 errors. I’m proud of the guys for the hard work they’ve put together to look this sharp early in the season. Through the first four games, we’ve only had 2 errors. Duane (Aponte) is sharpening his skills on the hill and he cruised through five innings of work. He’ll be ready to go the distance before long. It was a special night getting to play at such an awesome facility. I’m happy we came out with a win.”
The victory moves the Spirits (18+) to a perfect, 4-0 record to start off their new adventure in the NTABL Open National League. The team is scheduled to return to action Sunday afternoon as they visit the Dallas Panthers at John Paul II High School starting at 3:00PM. Click here to view schedule details or to navigate to the game, and also to download the iScore Central app to watch and listen to the game!