(April 11, 2018 – Dallas, TX) The Dallas Spirits (18+) squad needed some late game heroics and found just that as they walked off with a victory over last year’s NTABL Open National champion, in the form of the Dallas Panthers. The Spirits controlled the game in the early going, jumping out to an early 5 to 2 lead, however heavy hits from the Panthers brought the game back within reach, before Eric Goetz was able to score for the walk-off win.
Spirits starter, All-Star, and 2017 NTABL Open American League Pitcher-of-the-Year award winner, Duane Aponte set the Panthers in order to start the top half of the first. Cliff Brade started things for the Spirits offense, leading off with a single followed by a quick steal of second base. Brade was able to reach third base after Justin Anderson made it safely to first on a dropped third strike and the Spirits had runners at the corners with nobody out. Brade was then able to score, but the rally was cut short some after Goetz grounded into a double-play. Red-hot, Kyle Redinger followed with a single and Craig Molldrem drew a base-on-balls to put a runner in scoring position. A passed ball followed by a wild pitch during Mike Werner’s at-bat assisted in getting Redinger to the plate before Werner eventually grounded out. After the first, the Spirits led, 2 to 0.
The Panthers struck back quickly in the second after former Jesuit star and Cubs/Pirates MLB pitcher, Kevin Hart singled and reached second after Eric Wald followed with another single. Hart made his way to third on a passed ball and Aponte was able to get John Cleaveland to fly out. Hart later scored on a single by Jake Berman and Wald later scored on a single by Earl Burl. Aponte shook off the two runs by striking out both Daniel Gerow and Kyle Wetch to kill the Panthers rally.
John Showalter drew a one out walk to start the Spirits half of the second and was able to take second, then third after a wild pitch and passed ball combination by the Panthers battery during the next two pitches. A walk to JR Rivera put runners on the corners and another wild pitch, this time to Carl Suverkrop at the plate, was good enough to plate Showalter to give the Spirits a 3 to 2 advantage.
The Spirits struck again in the bottom of the third after Anderson reached on an error and then stole second. Goetz drew a walk and Redinger singled in what appeared would be an RBI. The Panthers were able to get the speedy Anderson at the plate, but after another wild pitch pushed the runners over, Molldrem was able to score Goetz on a sacrifice fly. The Spirits took advantage of Panthers fielding error on the play and Redinger was also able to make it home safely to give the Spirits a 5 to 2 lead.
The defending champions weren’t ready to bow out as they returned with a pair of runs in the fourth, cutting the lead to 5 to 4. Three straight doubles by Hart, Wald, and Berman put the Panthers back in the game before the Spirits were able to douse the flames. The game went to the sixth before the Panthers rallied for another run to tie the game at 5. Spirits newcomer, and hard-throwing right-hander, Holden Novak took over in the fifth. Novak struck out Dennis Kelly and Andy White to start the inning and the Spirits were ready to closeout the victory, however Kevin Wedlich was able to draw a walk off of Novak and later advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hart was then hit by a pitch and with runners on first and second, Wald was able to reach on a Spirits fielding error that was good enough to score Weidlich. Novak struck out Cleaveland to end the inning and a tie loomed over the heads of the Spirits as the headed into the shortened game’s final at-bat.
Anderson went down on strikes, but Goetz played hero with a double and later advanced to third on Redinger’s second 3-for-3 performance of the short season. Redinger is currently 6-for-6 in game play, batting 1.000 with 4 runs scored. Cleaveland mishandled the ball after Redinger’s single and Goetz was able to cross the plate for the walk-off victory.
“We know that it’s early in the season, but getting a win against the defending league champion certainly gives us a boost in confidence,” noted team skipper, John Showalter following the victory. “Our goal for the regular season is to knock off our last bit of off-season rust and eventually chase down that top seed as we head into the playoffs. This victory is a step in the right direction, for sure. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys. We worked hard in the off-season and it has shown during the early-going. We didn’t drop our heads after the tied the game up late, and that showcases some of our veteran leadership. We’ll take the W and focus on the next mission.”
The Spirits (18+) squad will be idle on Sunday, but will return to action next Wednesday night when they host The Dark Horse at Reverchon Park in Uptown, Dallas. First pitch is scheduled for 8:45PM.