(May 30, 2017 – Carrollton, TX) The Spirits (18+) squad visited the Texas Renegades on Tuesday night and it featured a rematch of a new rivalry between two brand new teams to the NTABL Open American League. The previous match-up had gone in decided favor to the Renegades by the score of 14 to 4, and the Spirits were looking to even the season series and also hold their position at second place in the League race.
The Renegades turn to their ace pitcher, Justin Johnson and Johnson previously held the Spirits to just 2 runs in 6 innings of work during the initial match-up between the clubs. The visiting ghosts had the game’s first offensive opportunity and it appeared the team was interested in striking early against Johnson. After a lead-off ground out by left fielder Justin Anderson, shortstop Teddy Croft reached on a single to left field. Croft’s hit was quickly followed on a first-pitch double to left-center field by first baseman, Collin Stacha. Johnson appeared to be struggling with his command as he then walked cleanup hitter, Mike Werner on 4 straight pitches out of the zone to load the bases. Johnson rebounded however, and was able to fan catcher, Mitch Abeita on a 0-2 curve ball for the second out. This left opportunity in the hands of third baseman and manager, John Showalter to salvage the bases-loaded opportunity. Showalter wasted no time by taking the first pitch he saw back up the middle for a 2-RBI single giving the Spirits a 2-0 lead after the first half inning.
“After the walk to (Mike) Werner to load the bases, I expected he’d (Johnson) try to get ahead on the count with a fastball for a strike,” Showalter later commented on the play. “Fortunately he threw me just what I was looking for and in the right spot. I was fortunate to make solid contact and both of our guys were able to score.”
The Renegades responded quickly to make up for the early deficit. Spirits starting pitcher, Duane Aponte (6-1, 3.17 ERA), was poised for the opportunity to shut down Renegades hitting, however Sean Kilday started by sending an 0-1 pitch down the left field line for a double to answer the Spirits opening half of the inning. Hagan McPhail followed with a single and with runners at the corners and nobody out, McPhail attempted a steal of second base. Abeita’s throw to second sailed too high and in and out of the glove of shortstop, Kyle Redinger. The ball made its way past both Redinger and Werner at second, allowing Kilday to score from the third. AJ Tellers provided some quick relief by popping out to Werner at second, but Cole Moore drew a free pass on balls to put runners on first and second with one out. Nathan Hernandez added some drama by sending a pitch to deep center field, but center fielder, Cliff Brade had a great read on the ball. Although deep enough to potentially advance a runner from second to third, Brade’s speed followed with a strong throw to the infield held both runners. Hoping to exit the inning with minimal damage done, Aponte then delivered to lefty, Jake Gibb who dispatched the the first pitch he faced into left-center field for a RBI-single, driving in the game-tying run.
With the game tied 2 to 2, the Spirits welcomed back shortstop and relief pitcher, Kyle Redinger as he laced a double into the right-center field gap. The two-bagger was followed by the first of 3 infield singles on the night by first baseman, Eric Goetz. Redinger hustled to third as the play developed and Goetz was able to beat out the throw to first. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Anderson worked a 4-pitch walk and the Spirits were back in business with the bases loaded. Croft followed by sending a deep fly to left field to score Redinger and advance Goetz to second on the sac fly. With runners at the corners and one out, Johnson pitched around Stacha to walk him and to once again load the bases. Werner followed up with solid contact on the next pitch sending another sac fly to left field. Goetz was able to score easily, but aggressive base running by Anderson backfired as the Rengegades handled the relay home and returned a strike to third to tag out Anderson. The run by Goetz crossed prior to the inning-ending out and the Spirits were back on top 4 to 2.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Renegades answered with a run to narrow the deficit down to 4 to 3 and action slowed for a few innings. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Hernandez lined a double to left-center field. Showalter felt Aponte had seen enough and made the change to Redinger to pitch. Redinger, playing in his first game back with the club following surgery for a foot injury, was looking to knock off some rust and hold the Renegades in check. After Hernandez reached third on a wild pitch, Zach Wooley was able to score him after grounding out and the game was tied, 4 to 4. This would prove to be the last run the Renegades would push across the plate as Redinger’s velocity and command appeared to stifle the remaining Renegades hitters Redinger would face.
The Spirits hitters on the other hand, were far from being finished. During the top half of the fifth, Stacha and Werner reached quickly after Stacha was tagged on a change-up from Johnson and Werner drew a base on balls. Johnson was replaced by Michael Brown on the hill for the Renegades, and Mitch Abeita welcomed the new pitcher by hitting a hard double that made its way to the left-center field wall. The shot scored Stacha and advanced Werner to third base. Showalter was eager to add another run batted in to his dossier, but he lined back to the pitcher and Werner was able to get back to third prior to Brown’s attempt to double him up. After a short explitive-laced argument by the Renegades, Brade was able to send an 0-1 pitch to deep to center field that was caught for out number two. The sac fly was deep enough to score Werner and to extend the Spirits lead to 6 to 4.
Redinger went on to strike out the Renegades half of the fifth and the Spirits added another run after Werner drew a base on balls with bases loaded. The Spirits defense was able to hold on a lead off walk by McPhail, as Redinger was able to strike out Tellers and to get Moore to follow with a ground out. Redinger completed his solid return by promptly striking out Hernandez to end the game to seal the 7 to 4 victory for the ghosts as game time expired.
“We played solid baseball tonight,” continued Showalter. “Every man on the roster contributed to this win and we kept the mistakes to a minimum. Solid win for us and now it’s on to the next challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”
The Spirits will be back in action this Sunday morning as they host the Tube Sox at Jesuit College Preparatory at 11:00AM. Click here for schedule details or to watch the game live online.