(May 31, 2018 – Dallas, TX) The President of the United States would have been please by the big numbers the Spirits (35+) squad put up in their win over the Dodgers this past Thursday night at Reverchon Park in Uptown, Dallas. President Trump and his motorcade drove past the field amidst a serious of police sirens and choppers blocking the path along Dallas North Tollway and just 30 minutes later, Air Force One flew over the field just before the first pitch was thrown.
The Spirits used 16 hits and 7 walks to unleash fury on the Dodgers after the game started closely. Duane Aponte went the distance for the Spirits, hurling 6 innings, while allowing 4 earned off of 8 hits, walking one, and striking out 5. Aponte aided his own cause by adding some solid offense as well. Duane doubled for one of his two hits, scored twice, was hit-by-pitch once, and contributed 3 RBIs.
The ghosts started the game quickly, picking up 4 runs in the first inning after Cliff Brade singled and stole second for one of his 3 steals on the night. Brade was held at second after Shawn Lee hit a bloop single between short and left-center, and both runners advanced on a double-steal. Brant Finchum was walked to load the bases and Chris Lewis also drew a base-on-balls good to score Brade. Lee followed home 3 pitches later after a wild pitch and the next wild pitch hit Aponte in the foot. Patrick Bilgere lined out to the first baseman and Eric McPherson took at shot at Air Force One with a sacrifice fly ball that scored Finchum. Lewis eventually stole third base and later crossed the dish on an errant throw by the Dodgers catcher. After the top half of the first, the Spirits led 4 to 0.
In what appeared would be an easy night’s work quickly became a baseball game as the Dodgers rallied for 3 in the bottom half of the first. Aponte struck out Ronnie Taylor, but Richard Sharum doubled and Kevin Simmons followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Nick Bird then reached on an error by Finchum at short that also scored Sharum and another double by Brian Keller plated both Simmons and Bird. Aponte was able to get Joe Venker to ground out but then gave up a walk and a wild pitch that put runners at the corners. The Spirits defense held steady, however and was able to get Marc Pieroni to ground out.
With the score in favor the Spirits, 4 to 3, the next couple of innings were quiet. It wasn’t until the top half of the fourth inning when the Spirits offense opened things up. Aponte crushed a line drive to left that was snared by the Dodgers left fielder for out number one. Bilgere wore a pitch and later stole second. McPherson drew a walk and John Showalter reached safely on an error by the Dodgers third baseman that also allowed Bilgere to score. Showalter stole second to put two runners in scoring position and Kirk Sipila followed with one of his three hits on the night with an RBI single to score McPherson. Jonathan Duran remained hot at the plate after striking a double deep to the center field wall and both Showalter and Sipila were able to score to make it 9 to 3, Spirits.
The Spirits added three additional runs in the fifth after Aponte shut the Dodgers down in the bottom half of the fourth. Lewis led off with a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball, then scored after Aponte singled. Bilgere also singled and the Dodgers had seen enough of pitcher, Joe Venker. Simmons turned to Pieroni to stop the bleeding, but the cut got worse. Pieroni was able to get the first batter he faced, McPherson to ground out, but a wild pitch on his next delivery allowed Aponte to score after he advanced to third on the previous play. Showalter also grounded out, but another wild pitch plated Bilgere and the Spirits were up 12 to 3.
Fast forward to the sixth, with the score still 12 to 3, Spirits and things get ugly. Lee led off with a line drive to left and advanced on an error by the left fielder. Finchum drew another walk and both runners advanced and the bases were loaded after Lewis singled. Aponte followed with a double to left-center field to score both Lee and Finchum, but Lewis was gunned down at the plate. Bilgere then singled to score Aponte and McPherson drew a walk. Simmons felt the need to find a way to stop the Spirits hitters, so he tried Brian Kellner on for size. Sipila welcomed Kellner with an RBI single to score Bilgere and the Spirits were up 16 to 3. Duran went down swinging and with two outs, Brade reached on a fielding error good enough to score McPherson. Lee then took a second turn at hitting during the inning and lined a single to center field on the first pitch he saw. scoring both Showalter and Sipila. Up 19 to 3, Kellner was able to finally stop the bleeding by getting Finchum to fly out to left.
There is no mercy rule in NTABL Veterans League play, so the Dodgers took to the plate to close the game in the bottom of the sixth. The Dodgers showed they had some fight left in them after Taylor led off with a double and then took third on defensive indifference. Sharum doubled to score Taylor and then scored on a single by Simmons. Bird flew out to Lee in left and Kellner reached on an Spirits fielding error that allowed Simmons to score. Venker then lined out to Sipila at second base and the Spirits were able to easily get Kellner off the bag at first to close the game out with a double-play.
“Well, once again we like to keep the first few innings of a game interesting,” commented Lee following his team’s victory. “Our guys can hit. I’ll give them that. It’s a good problem to have. Aponte was a solid force tonight and frankly, he didn’t get a lot of calls. No idea why the corners were off limits tonight. Most umps tighten it up after a large lead or a beating, and here we’re up 16 runs and the guy was still calling a hitter’s zone. Oh well, if you can deal with that and still win like this, then clearly we have bigger problems to focus on. The Dodgers can hit, so I’m not looking past them one bit. But proud of my guys for a solid effort. Three hits from Sip, Aponte lit things up, Bilgere was solid, and hey, even I contributed tonight.”
Lee and his squad return to action next Thursday night at Graham Field on the grounds of Prestonwood Christian Academy. First pitch is slated for 6:30PM as the Spirits will host the Knights. Click here for schedule details, to obtain directions to the game, or to download the iScore Central app to watch and listen to the game live!