(July 14, 2021 – Euless, TX) The Dallas Spirits (40+) squad entered the DFW ABA 40 League playoffs on Wednesday night as the number two seed and squared off against the Dallas Rangers in a best-of-three series match-up on Arlington Field at Texas Star Park. Game one of the series featured a Spirits offense that was once again clicking and scoring runs in wholesale amounts.
With the Spirits playing host of the first game of a doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday night and an if necessary game scheduled on Thursday night, the Rangers had the opportunity to break the scoring ice first. Facing off against Spirits ace, Duane Aponte, the Rangers came ready to play. Aponte was able to get the lead off hitter, Kent Fischer to fly out but Gary Jackson followed with a single. Jackson was forced out at second after the Spirits middle infield try to turn two, but Scott Gideon was able to reach on a fielder’s choice as the turn fell short. Craig Holmes and Jeff Jones followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases, but the Spirits were able to get out of the jame after Ray Mullikin flew out to end the Rangers first.
The Spirits struck quickly with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning after Eric McPherson and Kirk Sipila drew back-to-back walks. McPherson moved to third after initially swiping second and then swiping third and with runners at the corners, Eric Goetz followed by reaching safely on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Sipila at second, but scored McPherson. Goetz went on to steal second and then third after three more pitches to Shawn Lee and Lee eventually grounded out to the shortstop but hit it hard enough to score Goetz. The Spirits held a 2 to 0 lead before Aaron Wilson went down on swings to end the inning.
Aponte set the Rangers in order in the second and the Spirits offense opened up for 6 runs to take an 8 to 0 lead after David Tipton led the inning off with a walk. Tipton swiped second and Will Nash followed by reaching on a Rangers fielding error. Shawn Hunt grounded out but moved both runners to scoring position and Brant Finchum made it a set of loaded bags after he walked. Stacey Scott patiently held his own and also drew a walk to score Tipton and 4 pitches later, Aponte reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Scott at second but allowed both Nash and Finchum to score after Rangers second baseman, Jack Nash errantly made the throw to first as the Ranger attempted to turn two. Aponte, who moved to second on the play, later moved to third on a wild pitch. He later scored after McPherson reached on a dropped third strike that actually was a wild pitch that made its way to the backstop. Sipila followed with a double to move McPherson to third and Goetz capitalized with a hard single to score both runners. Lee grounded out to end the inning but the Spirits were on their way to a game-shortened win due to the league’s mercy rule.
Aponte and the Spirits defense again made quick work of the Rangers offense after another 1-2-3 inning and the offense managed another run in the third after Tipton walked with one out. He later advanced to second on a wild pitch that eventually turned into a base-on-balls for Nash. Tipton stole third to put runners on the corners and later scored on an RBI sac fly by Hunt.
The Rangers were quiet again in the fourth despite a walk to Jeff Jones and the Spirits made it 11 to 0 in the bottom half of the inning after Jonathan Duran reached on an error to lead things off. McPherson walked and both runners held after Sipila flew out. Goetz grounded out, but both runners were able to move over and a single by Lee drove in Duran to make it 10 to 0, Spirits. McPherson later scored on a wild pitch and after Wilson walked, Tipton flew out to end the inning.
The Rangers made a little noise in the bottom half of the fifth, but Aponte and the defense held them scoreless after Nash reached on a one-out error. Lance Metcalf went down swinging, but Jim Crombie kept the game alive with a single to put runners on the corners. Fischer eventually grounded out and the game was called.
The Spirits finished with just 3 hits, but made plays when it mattered and patient at-bats allowed for 11 walks that accounted for most of the scoring. Sipila, Goetz, and Lee each hit safely with Sipila earning the team’s only extra base hit. Goetz finished with 3 runs batted in and a run scored and Lee finished with 2 runs batted in. McPherson, Tipton, Finchum, and Scott each drew two walks apiece as McPherson scored 3 times and Tipton added two trips across the dish to lead the Spirits offense.
Moving into game two of the series and the scheduled doubleheader, the teams flipped sides of the field and the Spirits offense seemed to pick right up where it had left off. McPherson led things off with a walk and after swiping second and moving to third on a wild pitch, Sipila followed with another base-on-balls to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Goetz scored both runners with a hard double down the left field line to give the Spirits a 2 to 0 lead before Lee, Wilson, and Tipton went in order to follow.
The Rangers cut the lead to, 2 to 1 after Fischer led things off with a single. He stole second and advanced to third after Jackson singled to put runners on the corners. Jackson stole second and Gideon walked to load the bases. The Spirits infield turned a pair on a ground ball hit to Scott at second as he flipped to Lee for one and Lee delivered a strike to Goetz at first to complete the double-play. Fischer scored on the play and Jones followed with a ground out to end the first.
The Spirits added another 5 runs in the second after Nash was hit by a pitch. Hunt reached on a throwing error that allowed Nash to third and Hunt to move to second on the throw. Nash scored on a wild pitch that allowed Hunt to advance to third, and Finchum was able to score Hunt on a sac fly to center field. Scott drew a walk and advanced on another wild pitch by Crombie, and two pitches later he was on third following yet another pitch into the turf. Aponte reached on an error that allowed Scott to score and after McPherson drew his fourth walk on the night, Sipila popped out to record the second out. Goetz followed with an RBI single that scored Aponte and later stole second. McPherson was able to cross the dish on yet another wild pitch before Lee flew out to end the inning.
With a 7 to 1 lead, the Spirits defense headed back out to the field. Mulliken started the Rangers second with a single and Billey reached on an error by Duran that left two on with nobody out. Nash flew out to record the first out and it seemed the Spirits were out of the inning after Metcalf grounded to Scott at second. Scott fielded, turned and relayed to Lee who tagged second and followed with a solid throw to first in what appeared to be a textbook 4-6-3, double-play. The field ump for some reason chose to call Lee off the bag, thus allowing the runner at third and the runner arriving at second to be safe. Brooks followed with a single to score Mullikin and another Rangers single by Fischer allowed Billey to score. Jackson followed with another single to score Brooks and Gideon drew a walk to lad the bags. Duran was able to get Holmes to ground out to kill the Rangers rally and to hold a 7 to 4 Spirits lead.
“The call at second was ridiculous,” Lee commented later. “The umpire threw me out of a game in a different league a week prior and this was nothing other than revenge. I get it, you want to get one on me after our previous engagement where I probably got the best of you. But ultimately, you’re a liar. You cheat. That’s all there is to it. The guy was having fun joking with different players on both sides of the field afterward, but it was bush league. And there you go…they score 3 runs with two outs afterwards. I kept my cool and had to settle Scott down a bit after the call. It wasn’t even close. I was on the bag.”
Despite the small controversy, the Spirits went on to hold third 7 to 4 lead until the top half of the fourth when they made it 8 to 4. Hunt drew a walk to lead off the inning and a single by Finchum put two on with nobody out. Scott went down on strikes, but Aponte kept things alive after both runners moved on a double-steal. Aponte hit an RBI sac fly that allowed Hunt to score and the Spirits were up another run. McPherson reached on an error, but Sipila grounded out to end the inning.
The Spirits made it 10 to 4 in the sixth afer Nash drew a lead off walk and went on to steal second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and eventually scored on a ground out by Hunt. Finchum reached on an error and moved to third after Scott grounded out. Finchum later scored on an RBI single by Aponte and the Spirits held a 6-run advantage moving into the final half frame due to the league’s two hour time limit rule. The Rangers made it interesting as Jones, Mulliken, and Billey each singled to start off the bottom of the sixth. Duran was able to get Nash on strikes to record the first out and Metcalf flew out to leave the bags packed with two down. Brooks followed with a grounder to Hunt playing at third and Hunt mishandled the ball and then made an errant throw to first that allowed Jones and Mullkin to score. Fisher drew a walk to reload the bases, but Duran was able to get Jackson looking to end the game and the Spirits had a sweep over the Rangers.
“Great effort by everyone tonight,” continued Lee. “Playing a pair of games in this heat and at this age is no joke. Bats were a little better this game, but we were still out-hit tonight. By a lot. That’s gotta change if we want to advance, but we did what we had to in order to win.”
Goetz led all hitters in the second game with a pair of hits that included a double, and 3 runs batted in. Nash, Finchum, and Aponte were the three remaining Spirits to hit safely in game two, with Nash adding a double and Aponte adding a pair of runs batted in.
The Spirits will move to round two of the DFW ABA 40 League playoffs when they play host to the Redbirds staring with game one of the best-of-three series on Tuesday night. Click here for Tuesday’s game one details, and click here to view game two details. A third game will be played following game two, in the event that the series is tied at one game each.