(April 11, 2019 – Dallas, TX) There’s something hiding in the shadows of Spirits baseball this season and for all intents and purposes, it’s very likely that whatever that something is, it’s ugly. Collectively, the team is owning the loss column in 2019 and they’re in desperate need of that spark that has led to 5 championships in the past few seasons.
The Spirits (35+) squad impatiently got its NTABL season underway this past Thursday night at First Baptist Academy as they visited the hard-hitting Thunderbirds for a late night match-up. Left-handed pitcher, Brent Smerczynski took the mound for the ‘birds and made quick work of the Spirits, despite a single from Brant Finchum. Smerczynski was able to strike out Cliff Brade to lead the game off and after Finchum’s single, he was able to get Kirk Sipila to fly out and Shawn Lee to chase a high fastball for his second K on the inning.
Spirits starter, Jonathan Duran did a bit of the same to start out the Spirits defensive campaign as he struck out Brian Synatzske to lead things off. He was able then get Smerczynski to fly out before striking out Bodie Wilson to complete a scoreless first inning.
The Spirits were able to briefly fire up the offensive engine in the second after Eric Goetz singled with one out and Earl German wore one of Smerczynski’s pitches to the ribs, but Smerczynski recovered quickly by picking up another pair of strikeouts to Chris Lewis and Eric McPherson.
Duran wasn’t quite as fortunate in the second as the Thunderbirds broke the ice on the scoreboard after picking up an unearned run when Brade Bode reached on a fielding error and would later score after a passed ball and a pair of singles by Fabian Mendive and John Menth. The defense buckled down momentarily and Duran was able to get two more outs before any further damage was done, but the Thunderbirds had a 1 to 0 lead heading into the top half of the third.
Duran then became Smerczynski’s fifth strikeout victim to start off the inning, but three straight Spirits singles led to a tie ball game. Jack Nash and Brade both singled and Finchum followed with a deep single to the left field wall that was good to score Nash. Sipila reached on an error to load the bases and Lee singled to score Brade. John Hefner and Goetz also singled to score Finchum and then Sipila, and another single by German scored Lee before Lewis grounded into a double-play to kill the merry-go-round moment. After the dust cleared, the Spirits had themselves a 5 to 1 lead.
“At that point, I thought, finally, here we go,” commented team manager, Shawn Lee after the game. “For some reason our style of play is either to live wealthy or starve. We don’t get a lot of single run innings. It’s kind of an all-or-nothing scenario, so I felt good with a 5 to 1 lead heading into the bottom half of the inning.”
Lee’s good feeling would be short-lived. Justin Toone singled to start off the bottom half of the third and the Thunderbirds never looked back. Jody Nicewonger then reached on another Spirits fielding error and Mclane Hansen singled to load the bases. Smerczynski then doubled to the left-center field gap to clear the bases and the Spirits lead was suddenly, 5 to 4. Wilson then singled and Bode doubled to score both runners. Ron Short would later double to score Bode and he later scored on yet another Spirits fielding error. After approximately 30 minutes in the field, the Spirits returned to their dugout down 9 to 5, which would eventually turn out to become the game’s final score.
To add insult to injury, Lee turned to Sipila to take over in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Sipila was solid in setting the Thunderbirds down in order with a strikeout, however he hurt his shoulder during warm up in the following inning and had to leave the game. He is currently day-to-day awaiting diagnosis. German was able to close out the game, but the Spirits offense never restarted, seeing just two more hits the rest of the game as Wilson came in to finish on the mound for the Thunderbirds.
“Not sure how to react to this one,” continued Lee. “We’re supposed to be excited about baseball seasons starting and I don’t see it. More often than not, I’m hearing the word, ‘sorry.’ Baseball is an interesting sport. I’ve played a lot of basketball. You can get after guys in that sport and they react. Baseball isn’t like that. So you have to find something that’s motivational. For some guys, it’s just in their blood, but this year, we’re slacking. I’m not going to candy-coat it. Four errors. They all mattered too. And then suddenly the ump’s zone seems to disappear. A combination of the littlest things can terrorize you in baseball. I heard one of my players mention, ‘it’s just the first game.’ That really bothered me. It was actually our 11th game on the season if you count DFW ABA and our tournament play in Las Vegas. We’re bleeding defensively. If we don’t get rolling, we’re going to have to look at some new schemes.”
The squad will have opportunity for redemption, but likely not until Monday, April 22. They are scheduled for play next Thursday to host the Royals, but a delay in work on Reverchon Park in uptown Dallas is causing some games to be rescheduled. Instead, they’ll likely be hosting the Dallas Cardinals on the following Monday to make up for missed games early in the NTABL season. Click here to learn more about the game or to obtain directions to McInnish Park, Field #10.
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