(June 13, 2020 – Carrollton, TX) They started off hot, seemed to let the opposition back in but this time revived and hit the throttle as the Spirits (35+) squad was able to get back in the win column behind the bat of Travis Hitzeman with help from Eric McPherson and a few others.
The Spirits jumped out to a quick 3 to 0 lead Monday night against the Dodgers at McInnish Park in NTABL Veterans League action after McPherson led the game off with a single. Brant Finchum was able to draw a walk and with two on and nobody out, Kirk Sipila loaded the bases after wearing on on the helmet from Dodgers starting pitcher, Wes Kirby. Hitzeman took his place to bat next and took the first pitch he saw to the left side for an RBI infield single. Shawn Lee ran the count to 3-2 before being called out on strikes and while expressing his disliking of the umpire’s choice of pitches before walking away only to receive non-friendly fire from the umpire to his back, he then provided some additional dialogue that led to his ejection.
The Spirits shook off the unexpected drama and came up big after Chris Lewis reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Hitzeman at second but allowed both Finchum and Sipila to score. Shawn Hunt drew a walk to keep the inning alive, but Jonathan Duran went down swinging to end the inning. The Spirits had to make due with 8 players due to Lee’s early exit and with Finchum starting on the bump the squad did well being short-handed. Finchum retired the first two hitters he faced before Lance Broadway reached on an error, but Finchum was able to get Nick Bird to fly out to end the first.
The Spirits went in order in the second and in the bottom half of the inning, John Kirby took advantage of the wind blowing out out to left with a solo home run with two outs. Jeff Hamm reached after wearing the next pitch by Finchum, but the Spirits defense was able to get Felipe Luna to fly out to end the inning.
The Spirits then went full squad when David Tipton arrived late and took advantage of a 9 player lineup that usually goes to 12 on most nights. Sipila reached on an error and advanced to third after Hitzeman doubled to pick up his second hit on the night. Tipton grounded out to score Sipila and the Spirits had a 4 to 1 lead.
The game remained quiet until the bottom half of the fourth inning when the Dodgers rallied to tie the game at 4 to 4. Wes Kirby singled and his courtesy runner, Dan Ochs stole second base. John Kirby then wore a pitch to put two runners on and an RBI single by Hamm scored Ochs. Ochs then took Hamm’s place at first as a courtesy runner and after Luna grounded out, John Kirby scored to cut the score to 4 to 3, Spirits. Joe Venker then grounded out but Ochs was able to score for Hamm and the game was tied before Eric Landsberger struck out swinging.
“I was a little discouraged when the Dodgers tied it,” mentioned Lee after the game. “Our recent play has been get a lead, give up a lead but this time the guys didn’t seem to let it bother them. They kept their heads in it and were patient and things went our direction. Nice to see that happen for a change. They did a great job battling and both Finchum and Sipila did a great job with their pitch choices tonight. Got to give Hunt some credit too making the calls behind the dish.”
The score remained tied at 4 each until the sixth inning and with only 15 minutes left due to the league’s 2-hour time limit, the Spirits offense saddled in and it all started with a lead off single by Eric Goetz. The Dodgers had turned to hard-throwing Lance Broadway to close things down back in the fourth inning and up to that point he had held the Spirits scoreless while recording 4 strikeouts along the way. After Goetz’s single, McPherson battled a 10-pitch at-bat that led to a base-on-balls and the Spirits appeared to be in business. Finchum followed by reaching on an error and the bases were loaded for the team’s best hitters. Sipila was able to reach on an error that allowed Goetz to score and the Spirits were up 5 to 4. Hitzeman then followed with a single that should have scored two, but after McPherson crossed the plate the Dodgers right fielder relayed a throw to Hamm at the dish that was high. The tag seemed rather late to a sliding Finchum but plate ump, despite having enough height to see to all the way to Austin missed Finchum sliding into the plate and called him out while overlooking the sound of spikes hitting the rubber dish. The ump went with his decision and Finchum was ruled out, but rather than let it bother them the Spirits remained poised and continued by scoring another run after Tipton reached on a fielder’s choice that allowed Sipila to score. Lewis went down swinging but Hunt kept the inning alive after darting to first on a dropped third strike and a passed ball that allowed Hitzeman to score and give the Spirits an 8 to 4 lead before Duran went down on swings.
Sipila, who had replaced Finchum on the mound back in the fifth dialed in during the sixth and he was able to seal the victory for the Spirits by setting the Dodgers down in order after. After getting John Kirby on strikes, Sipila was then able to get Hamm to fly out before striking out Luna to end the game.
The win upgrades the Spirits record to 3-2-1 as the team goes idle this Thursday night with a bye in league play. Their next scheduled game for NTABL is July 23rd when they visit the Dallas Cardinals at McInnish Park #11 at 8:00PM. Click here for schedule details and for instructions on how to download the iScore Central app to listen to Spirits baseball games live!