(August 21, 2018 – Plano, TX) The teams traded blows and tempers flared at different moments, but the seasoned Spirits (45+) squad prevailed in a semifinal match-up against the Caddo Reds Tuesday night to advance to the NTABL Masters League Championship next Monday night.
The Spirits scattered 10 hits off of veteran pitcher, Dan Sosa and overcame a 2 to 1 deficit in the bottom half of the fourth to stamp their ticket to the big game. Shawn Lee recorded 3 hits on the night while Sean House and Kirk Sipila each added a pair of hits as well to lead the offense. Sipila recorded both a triple and a double on the night, adding a run scored and House added both a run scored and an RBI. The biggest hit of the night came from Earl German late in the game and it turned out to be the game winning run batted in to carry the ghouls to the spotlight game.
John Holmquist picked up his team-leading seventh victory on the season after delivering 4 and 2/3 innings, allowing one earned on 5 hits, while walking one and striking out 2. John started the first inning by getting Brett Baker to fly out, but Rob Medel followed with a single and was later squeezed at second when the Spirits attempted to turn two. Stacey Scott landed safely at first on the fielder’s choice and Sosa ended up reaching on a Spirits fielding error. Holmquist and his defense were able to buckle down to get Sammy Vives to ground out to end the Reds half of the first.
David Tipton grounded out and Brant Finchum popped out to start the Spirits half of the inning, however Sipila kept things alive after belting a triple that reached the right-center field wall. He scored quickly after House took a 1-1 pitch from Sosa into center field for a two-out RBI single and the Spirits had the early lead. Lee followed with a single to push House to second, but Sosa was able to retire Brian Hackney to end the early rally.
Both sides went in order during the second, but the Reds busted through with a pair of runs in the third after Joel Chirino reached on yet another Spirits fielding error. Bobby Michaelides dropped a drag bunt toward first and was able to reach safely and push Chirino to second. Baker then followed by crushing a fly ball to the right field warning track for a double and both runners scored easily to give the Reds a 2 to 1 lead. Medel then followed with a single to push Baker to third and the Reds were rolling, until Scott hit a fly ball to Tipton in center to record the first out. Tipton then followed by sending the ball home against Baker, who tagged and the result was a double-play at the dish. Sosa eventually grounded out to end the rally for the Reds, but they took the field defensively with the lead in hand.
Sosa avoided a catastrophe in the the bottom half of the inning when Guy Koenig crushed a line drive to right field that was certain for extra bases, but Bill Lee was able to cover and snared the line drive on the run to boost the Reds momentum. Tipton grounded out, but Finchum kept the inning alive with a double. Sosa refocused and was able to get Sipila to ground out and the Reds maintained their lead moving into the fourth.
Vives started the Reds fourth with a single and then stole second base to get things moving for the Reds offense, but Holmquist was able to get Duty to fly out and Murrah to ground out. Vives was able to take third on the play, but the defense rallied to get James Roberts on a ground out to end the inning. It was during the bottom half of the inning that the Spirits found pay dirt starting with House reaching on a single on the first pitch he saw from Sosa. Lee battled his second 1-2 count against Sosa on the night and despite being in the hole was able to slash a single through the left side to put two on with nobody out. Hackney went down swinging to strengthen the drama a bit, but Jack Nash hit a blooping double on the next pitch to score House and the Spirits tied the game at 2 to 2. Eric McPherson then made a bid for heroism after slapping a hard ground ball to third, but Duty was in position to field the ball and made a play at Lee who was off the bag. Lee was safe diving back to the bag and Duty was able to complete the throw to first to record the second out of the inning. Enter German to the plate. German took strike one from Sosa but then crushed the next pitch he saw to the right field gap for a double. The two-out shot was good enough to score both Lee and Nash and the Spirits had the lead at 4 to 2. Sosa was able to get Koenig to fly out, but the momentum clearly had shifted the direction of the Spirits.
Holmquist returned for the top half of the fifth and gave up a four pitch walk to Chirino, who again stole second on the next pitch. Holmquist was able to get Michaelides to fly out and then battled Baker for the third time before finally setting him down on strikes with a filthy, off-speed slider. Sipila then turned to House to close things out and House entered the game with some glycerin. House promptly struck out Medel to end the inning and the Spirits were in control.
Despite a double by Sipila in the bottom half of the inning, the Spirits were quiet offensively and House returned the favor to the Reds in the top half of the sixth despite giving up a lead off walk to Scott. McPherson gunned down Scott trying to swipe second and a key tag by Finchum at second to the sliding Scott completed the put-out. House was able to get Sosa and Vives each to ground out and the Spirits remained in control moving into the bottom half of the inning.
Lee led off the sixth with a single, but Sosa was able to get Hackney looking. Consequently, Hackney launched his bat toward the Spirits dugout unhappy by the fact he didn’t cut the third strike in half and the plate umpire took issue with his actions. It unfortunately cost him as he was tossed from the game and will have to sit out Monday’s game. He has the potential to play if there’s a game two, but for now he’ll be watching from the stands. Lee eventually stole second before Nash went down on swings and after several moves to try to pick him off at second, the Reds finally prevailed after the field umpire called Lee out while diving back on the third attempt.
House made simple work of the Reds in the seventh after striking out Duty and getting Murrah to ground out. He eventually struck out Roderick Hicks to end the game and to pick up the save and seal the Spirits spot in Monday’s championship.
“This was a great team effort tonight,” commented Sipila following his team’s win. “Holmquist delivered a great performance tonight and House did a great job shutting them down to close out the game. Great night at the plate as well for both him and Shawn (Lee). Earl’s hit tonight with two outs was key. Love that we can count on these guys to produce with two outs. They keep their heads in the game and remain calm and that’s key when you’re playing against an experienced team like the Reds. We’ll enjoy this one and look to finishing the job on Monday!”
The team will return to action next Monday to battle for the league championship as the will play the winner of Friday night’s game featuring the DFW Hurricanes at these very same Reds. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30PM at Graham field and you can click here for schedule details, to obtain driving directions to the game, or to download the iScore app to watch and listen to the game live, online.