(April 25, 2017 – Dallas, TX) The Spirits (18+) squad came into their Tuesday night match-up looking to take care of a few things. First on the list, the team hoped to avoid their first losing streak by handing the defending 2016 NTABL Open American League champion, Tube Sox their first on-field defeat of the 2017 season. The Sox had a mark in the loss column due to a forfeit the game prior. Second, the Spirits looked to welcome some new faces to their already deep roster and as it turned out, the outcomes of both of these propositions went in the Spirits favor.
The Spirits started out the evening by going down, 1-2-3 in the first inning. The team looked to starting pitcher, Duane Aponte to take the hill and with the challenge before him, Aponte calmly went about his business. In the bottom of the first, the Tube Sox mounted with a fierce offensive start. The Sox were able to string together five hits, none bigger than the double turned in by Robert Gonzales which scored two. The shot was a deep fly ball to center field in a terrible gusting wind and although Spirits center fielder, Cliff Brade made a valiant effort to corral the ball, it found its way to the turf. All told, the Sox would push across three runs before the inning would come to an end.
The scoreboard remained quiet until the top of the fourth inning, when it was finally opportunity for the Spirits to break through against solid Sox pitching. In his first at bat as a Dallas Spirit, catcher and relief pitcher, Teddy Croft led off the inning with a double into the right-center field gap. Brade followed with a strikeout, but first baseman, Eric Goetz continued the rally with an infield single advancing Croft to third. John Showalter wasted little time getting the scoring started. After fouling off a tough 0-2 slider, Showalter reached on a hard hit fielder’s choice that squeezed Goetz, however Croft was able to score on the play and the Spirits were on the board. Left fielder, Collin Stacha singled to left and the Spirits were in business with two on and one out. Second baseman, Mike Werner followed with an RBI single to right-center scoring Showalter and advancing Stacha to third. Thomas Stoltz followed with yet another base-knock to drive in Stacha and the merry-go-round continued. The Sox appeared poised to kill the rally when Aponte then tripled off of an 0-2 pitch hard down the right field line, easily allowing Stoltz and Werner to score and putting the Spirits up 5 to 3.
Showalter later commented on the play. “What can you say about Duane? Not only does he go out there and give us a solid performance on the bump, but he also leads the team with 3 RBI on the night. He is turning in a great season and proving that age is just a number when you’re as talented as he is. When we followed up by shutting them down 1-2-3 to close down the fourth, I felt we had executed the fabled ‘shutdown inning’ to perfection. We seemed to have some great momentum at that point!”
The second new face filling the Spirits lineup came in the form of Mitch Abeita. A former player in the New York Yankee organization, Abeita looked right at home both from behind the dish as well as at the plate offensively. In his first plate appearance with the club, Abeita hit an RBI single to right field to score Carl Suverkrop, who had reached on a walk. In what will be a certain nomination for a “sniper attack,” Abeita was gunned down attempting to reach second base after losing his footing in no-man’s-land two thirds of the way to the bag. Despite the humorous moment for the team, the run boosted the score to 6-3 in favor of the ghouls.
The next scoring opportunity for the Sox came in the bottom of the fifth when Reid Hendrix reached on an error to start the inning. Hendrix then advanced to second on a single by Austin Roderick. Sox leadoff hitter, Jimmy Von Thron then reached base for the third time after beating out an infield single in the hole between third base and shortstop. Showalter commented, “Jimmy was wearing out that hole on the field. His two previous singles had seen their way through our defense in the same location. We finally got a clue and I shaded him to that spot and with two men on, I did my best to get to the chopper. I wasn’t able to make the play, but I knocked it down to keep the ball on the infield.” The play turned out to save a run, however the Sox were in business with bases loaded and nobody out. With the defense poised for a double-play ball, the team looked to Aponte for some help and he would not disappoint. Sox number two hitter, Cameron Brewer worked the count full, but Aponte was able to strike him out. Andres Scates then sent a sacrifice fly right field that would score a run to cut the Spirits lead to 6-4. Both Sox runners advanced on the throw home, leaving the tying runs in scoring position with two out and cleanup hitter, Trevor Keele at the plate. Aponte was able to get Keele to fly out and the Spirits were out of the inning.
“With the top of their order batting at that point, we knew that we had to limit the damage to stay ahead. It was a tough spot to be in, but we knew we had the right guy on the mound,” noted Showalter.
The Spirits went down and order in the sixth and they were able to get Kameron Wilson to pop out to begin the defensive half of the inning. With Aponte’s pitch count reaching high numbers, Robert Gonzales followed up with a double to left-center which appeared to be enough for Showalter as he replaced Aponte with newcomer, Teddy Croft. Croft set the next two Sox hitters down in order with a strikeout and a ground out.
In the final inning, Werner struck out and Stoltz singled. Stoltz was given the steal sign and in what can only be called the jump of the century, Stoltz broke for second on a 3-1 pitch two full seconds before the Sox pitcher started his motion. Inexplicably, the pitcher made his pitch to an awaiting Aponte who promptly took the pitch firmly up the middle into the left-center field gap. Stoltz, who had such a great jump on the play came all the way around to score. “Just the way we drew it up”, Showalter quipped after the contest. “And probably some worthy insurance. The extra run seemed to give us an edge and Teddy was able to shut it down.” It turns out the Sox had other thoughts in mind as they started the inning with a pair of singles, scoring a run when Croft was called for a balk. The rally proved too little, too late, however as Croft would eventually strike out the side, finishing the top of the Sox order in 7 pitches to pick up the save and give Aponte and the Spirits a 7 to 5 victory.
“We needed this win,” continued Showalter. “We’re now a third of the way through the season and it means a lot to finally get a win against a top team in the league. As always, I’m proud of the guys for playing the kind of baseball we know we can play. This will give us some good momentum to moving forward.”
The team welcomes you to join them next Sunday afternoon as they host the Athletics at 1:00PM over at Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas for Adam Brown bobble-head night. The first five fans through the gate will get a hand-made bobble-head action figure of Brown and a photo opportunity following the game.