(April 13, 2017 – Plano, TX) In the Spirits (35+) debut at Carpenter Field in Plano, the team was nearly gifted by a no-hit performance by ace pitcher, Craig Molldrem. Molldrem held the Brewers hitless through 6 innings of play before Brian Synatzske dropped a bloop single behind second to end the statistical bid. Molldrem finished the night after striking out a dozen Brewers, walking three, and giving up the lone hit to Synatzske as the Spirits finished the night anxiously, but with a 9 to 4 victory.
The Spirits offense started quickly in the top half of the first inning after outfielders Cliff Brade and Shawn Lee both singled. Shorstop Brant Finchum scored Brade with a sacrifice fly to left field and Lee promptly scored when second baseman, Kirk Sipila earned the first of his two doubles on the evening and the Spirits were off to a fast 2 to 0 lead. Molldrem set the Brewers down in order to close the first inning and the Spirits were then held scoreless in the top of the second. The Brewers made a little noise in the bottom half of the second after Fernando Barba reached on an error by Sipila. Molldrem then struck out Stephen Gundrum, but beaned the next hitter, Kevin Simmons and the Brewers had two on with one out. Jody Nicewonger grounded out to push the runners to scoring position and Molldrem lost the next hitter, Brent Smerczynski via walk and the Brewers had loaded bases. Molldrem bounced back however, and was able to strike out Ryan Johnson to end the threat.
“You can always expect Craig to stay focused,” commented Lee after the game. “He really is a student of the game, but more importantly of his own technique. He can tell you what he did ‘wrong’ on nearly any pitch he misses on, but it’s really fun to watch him master his craft when he gets behind or in a jam. You can literally see his focus take over and it did there in the second inning. The Brewers have a great lineup of hitters so when Craig came back after that walk to strike out Johnson, we were pretty happy.”
The Spirits struck again in the third when Brade singled again for the second of his three hits on the night. Lee struck out swinging and Brade then stole second and advanced to third when Finchum grounded out. Sipila then reached on an error which scored Brade, and designated hitter Eric McPherson singled to push Sipila to second. A passed ball advanced both runners to scoring position, setting the stage for Molldrem to aid his own cause as he picked up a pair of runs batted in with a line drive single to right. The Brewers were able to get John Showalter to ground out to end the inning, but the Spirits had a comfortable 5 to 0 lead. The Spirits added three more in the fifth on a single by Brade, a Finchum walk, Sipila’s second double of the evening, and from another single by McPherson. After five innings completed, the Spirits were coasting 8 to 0.
The Spirits made it 9 to 0 in the top of the seventh and sent Molldrem back out to complete the no-hitter attempt when Synatzske completed the spoiler role. Veteran pitcher Earl German was called upon to close out the game at the point and the Spirits became a bit unraveled. After Synatzske’s single, Bodie Wilson reached on a fielder’s choice after the Spirits tried to spin a pair and Sipila lost the baseball on the exchange. Barba then singled and Gundrum followed with a free pass to load the bases with one out. Wilson and Barba then scored after Kevin Simmons popped up and it was mishandled by the Spirits infield. Nicewonger then singled scoring Gundrum and Simmons then scored after the Spirits infield failed to communicate on another infield pop-up allowing Smerczynski to reach on the third error of the inning. With the score now 9 to 4 and a sense of minor frustration setting in, German settled in and ended the rally and the game by striking out Ryan Johnston.
“The guys had me nervous for a second there,” continued Lee. “Not necessarily the way you want to finish a game, but for six innings we were solid. We walked away with the W and that’s all that matters. Craig was a beast tonight for us both defesively and offenseively with a pair of hits and 3 RBI. And speaking of beast, Sipila and Brade were both forces to be reckoned with as well. Sip (Sipila) had those two gap doubles and 3 RBI, and Brade with a 3 for 3 performance and 4 runs scored. Those two guys need to share what they’re eating with the rest of us!”
The victory advances the Spirits to 3-0 in NTABL Veterans League play. The squad returns to action next Thursday night at Carpenter Park, Field #7 as they play host to the Astros. First pitch is at 7:30PM.