(June 20, 2019 – Mesquite, TX) They often say lightning doesn’t strike twice, however you may want to ask the Spirits (35+) squad if that’s true or not. On Thursday night, the bulk of the team’s players fresh off of a rock bottom loss to the Redbirds in DFW ABA play used what they learned on Wednesday night to face plant into another loss. Despite another solid game against a good team, this time the Cardinals, the Spirits led 6 to 5 headed into the seventh inning and needed just 3 outs to post a victory. Instead, they gave up 7 runs and left again, heads down with a 12 to 7 loss in NTABL Veterans League play.
“I’m about out of analogies and bad jokes to describe this kind of play,” commented Shawn Lee following the game. “It’s hard to keep your head up. We play good teams, stay in the game and then we (expletive) to bed and lose. We don’t just lose. We lose bad.”
In search of a silver lining, Lee seemed to have issues on looking at the bright side as a number of players likely may have been feeling the sting of the previous night’s loss. The sad part of it is that the team played well; very well up to that point and once again saw the bottom fall out in an opponent’s huge inning that turns a tough loss into an embarrassing loss. The issue appears to be sticking out like a sore thumb. This team needs pitching; and it needs it now.
“(Brant) Finchum did a hell of a job getting us rolling,” continued Lee. “He wasn’t scheduled to pitch and I had two different players that were late to the game and were both unready to pitch. Brant stepped up and went five innings after pitching last night. He’s insane. He’s such a competitor and he almost always delivers. They don’t make them like this guy anymore. Any one of us should look at this guy and say, ‘I need to be as tough as this dude’ and frankly, step up our game. So shout out to him. We made a game out of it for a minute because of his effort.”
The team still awaits the return of former MLB talents Craig Molldrem, who is out from Tommy-John surgery and Jason Bottenfield, who’s been out due to business. The addition of these two players and adding hard-throwing Travis Hitzeman to the mix can certainly right the ship some if the squad is able to obtain some service from them this season. Molldrem won’t be available to throw again until 2020. And despite Finchum’s heroics, the team played a bit disabled as it was without perennial MVP and leading hitter, Kirk Sipila.
The Redbirds started quicly with a pair of runs in the first after Joe Lowry led the game off after wearing a Finchum pitch. He advanced to second on a single by Kevin Fought and Lowry was later squeezed at third after Jerry Gamez reached on a fielder’s choice. Both runners advanced after Philip Bosco hit a fly ball to orbit that was retrieved by Cliff Brade in left field, but a pair of RBI singles by Josh Unumb and Dustin Harrison gave the team a 2 to 0 lead.
The Spirits then rallied for a pair of runs to tied the game in the bottom half of the innings after Brade singled and later advanced to second when Hitzeman singled. Lee then singled to score Brade and Hitzeman later scored when Finchum grounded out.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 3 to 2 lead in the third after Jason New reached on an error and traded places with Lowry on a fielder’s choice that put him out at second. A single by Fought pushed him to third and he’d later score on a ground out by Gamez.
The Spirits later flipped the scoreboard after scoring 3 runs in the fourth after Finchum led things off with a one-out single. Earl German followed with a single and a walk to David Tipton loaded the bases. Jonathan Duran reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Finchum and another fielder’s choice that squeezed Duran at second allowed John Hefner to reach base and for German and Tipton to score.
The Cardinals rallied to tie the game in the fifth after Jason Gutierrez singled and Jason Powell doubled. New grounded out to score Gutierrez and a single by Lowry scored Powell to tie the game.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Spirits took a 6 to 5 lead after Duran walked and later advanced to second on an error by the Powell, who replaced Harrison as pitcher for the Cardinals. Duran was able to reach third on a ground out by Hefner and an RBI single by newcomer, Grant Martin gave the Spirits the lead. The go-ahead hit was the first for Martin as a Spirit.
The team then took the lead into the top half of the seventh inning and needed 3 outs to pick up a win. This is the unfortunate part of the story where the ‘good guy’ dies and the ‘bad guy’ rides off into a burning forest with the ‘good guy’s’ woman. The Cardinals rallied for 7 runs that included 7 singles, a hit-by-pitch and a Spirits fielding error and it was over less the crying. Duran, who replaced Finchum on the mound in the sixth nearly sealed the game with a diving attempt at a bunt from Powell that would have for certain turned into a Spirits triple-play. With both runners aboard to start the Cardinals half of the inning, Powell squared to bunt and popped it up. Duran made a play for the ball and fell a bit short and the ball dropped for a single. From there, the rest is in the box score.
The Spirits rallied for a run in the bottom half of the seventh after Eric McPherson walked and Hitzeman reached on an error. Lee singled to load the bases, but Finchum went down on strikes. German singled to score McPherson, but the Cardinals outfield threw a strike home to gun down Hitzeman and Tipton followed with a fly out that ended the game.
“It’s easy to complain about the bad and keep your head down,” continued Lee. “We’ll be alright, but will we turn the corner? That I can’t answer. That’s up to the guys. We have to find it. We have to find something. I can cheer, I can complain. I doesn’t matter how I feel. As a team we just gotta get on a winning track.
The team will have that opportunity next week as they host the Royals, the only team they have beaten this season and also a team that has beaten them as well. The game is scheduled on Graham Field at Prestonwood Christian Academy with a 6:30PM first pitch. Click here for schedule details.