(August 28, 2017 – Plano, TX) John Holmquist was looking razor-sharp Monday night and his command and pitch choices baffled Reds hitters as Holmquist and the Spirits (45+) defense were able to get the job done to continue their long-road journey toward a NTABL Masters League title as the squad cruised to a 7 to 2 victory Monday night at Graham Field.
Holmquist was solid for 5 innings, allowing just one earned run on 3 hits, walking one Reds hitter while striking out 4. The game started off slowly for the Spirits offense and the game appeared it may follow suit to the two previous contests between the clubs. The teams traded 2 to 1 victories in the previous two games and the slow start for both teams proved the night may display the same outcome. It was the Reds offense that struck first, starting with a single by lead off hitter, T.K. Hayes. Holmquist was able to get Brett Baker and pitcher, Dan Sosa to fly out, but Sammy Vives hit a deep single to left-center field that allowed Hayes to score before Holmquist struck out Chris Duty to kill the inning.
The Spirits went in order in the bottom half of the first and the Reds made it a 2 to 0 ball game when Todd Murrah led the inning off with a single and James Roberts reached on an error. Randy Brittain used his old school skills to sacrifice bunt the runners over leaving two on with one out for Gary Menes. Menes hit a medium line drive to right field and it was just deep enough to allow Murrah to score before the throw from Dennis Gonzalez made its way to the plate. Rod Hicks was also able get on base safely following yet another Spirits fielding error, but Holmquist promptly struck out Hayes looking to again end a Reds scoring rally.
Down 2 to 0 entering the bottom half of the inning, the Spirits mustered a couple of base runners in the form of free passes to both Brian Hackney and Eric McPherson, but the team’s offense sputtered the opportunity as Sosa was able to strike out Mark Leemaster and to get Brant Finchum out with a fly ball. Holmquist made quick work of the Reds third by getting Baker and Sosa to fly out and for the third straight inning, he completed the third out riding solo by striking out Vives.
The Spirits again made a small attempt to put runs on the board after Gonzalez and Jack Nash both singled with one out in the Spirits third, but Sosa followed with his pitching voodoo to set down both David Tipton and Shawn Lee on strikeouts. Holquist once again made quick work of the Reds in the top of the fourth, going 1-2-3 with an additional strikeout to his night’s resume. As the Spirits offense entered the bottom half of the fourth with a sense of concern, that concern was quickly aleviated when catcher, Patrick Bilgere led off the inning with a hard double to the left field wall. Kirk Sipila followed with a base on balls and with two runners on and nobody out, Hackney played the role of hero by smashing a double to right-center field to score both Bilgere and Sipila from first. With the game tied at two, McPherson followed with a triple to the right field wall that scored Hackney and the Spirits had their first lead at 3 to 2. Leemaster then followed with an 0-1 single to score McPherson and the Spirits were up, 4 to 2. Sosa was finally able to stop the bleeding after getting Finchum out on another fly ball and getting Gonzalez to ground out despite walking Chris Lewis.
Holmquist capped off the Spirits rally by shutting down the Reds in the fifth after allowing Hicks to reach on a free pass and the Spirits were able to apply some insurance to their lead by picking up another pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning. Tipton singled with one out and reached second on a failed attempt from Sosa to pick him off at first. Sosa, who appeared to be frustrated with Tipton’s lead at second base as well, followed with a bit of the same making another pick off attempt from the mound to second which went off the glove of Menes into center field and sending Tipton to third. Lee followed with an infield single, but the defense was able to hold Tipton on third, however it was short-lived as Lee appeared to purposely get caught in a run down. Taking a large lead at first, Lee baited Sosa to make the pick off attempt and took off for second base. As the run down started, Tipton took off for home and the Reds first baseman launched a throw past his shortstop and into left-center field and Lee was able to make it back to first safely. Sosa was able to get Hackney to ground out to end the inning, but after five complete the Spirits led 6 to 2.
Sipila took the mound for the Spirits in the sixth and made quick work of the Reds, including another strikeout of Duty to end an inning. The Spirits tacked on a final run in the seventh after McPherson and Leemaster led the inning off with a pair if singles. Finchum grounded into a double-play that pushed McPherson to third and he was able to score after Lewis singled up the middle. The Reds made short bit of noise in the top of the seventh after Murrah singled and James Roberts was hit by a pitch. Brittain reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Roberts at second for the first out of the inning and advanced Murrah to third. The Spirits defense rallied however and were able to get Menes and Brittain via a double-play to kill the inning and to seal the victory.
“What a great night of baseball,” commented Sipila following his team’s victory. “A little shaky to start tonight, but we made some adjustments at the plate and started to hit the ball to right field. When we took away Sosa’s back door curveball, we took control of the game. We’re fortunate to have some guys that can place the ball when needed and based on how they setup their defense, I felt we really took advantage of their game plan. We’ll need to be better defensively moving forward after looking at those few silly errors we had, but I’m confident we’ll correct that as we advance. We’re looking forward to keeping the line moving!”
The Spirits return to playoff baseball next Friday night as they host the very same Cubs team who put them into the loser’s bracket. The Cubs lost 12 to 2 to the first seeded Orioles in the previous game and the loser of next Friday night’s game will see their season come to an end. First pitch is slated for 7:00PM at Reverchon Park in Uptown, Dallas.
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