(November 1, 2017 – Plano, TX) The championship teams have punched their tickets to Sunday afternoon’s big game to be held at Graham Field on the grounds of Prestonwood Christian Academy. The Spirits (Brazos) edition will hold one of those tickets, but not without a little hesitation from the Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
The Hurricanes jumped out to a quick, 3 to 0 lead using a few hits and a handful of Spirits fielding errors in what felt like a long first half inning of play. Hurricanes catcher and veteran player, Chris Crombar led things off with a 3-2 count single. Brad Petty followed by hitting a soft line drive up the middle that center fielder, Shawn Lee charged. It appeared Lee might have an opportunity at the catch, however he held up and quickly bare-handed the hop with a throw to first base in an attempt to get Petty out. The ball sailed high above first baseman, Chris Lewis and into the Spirits dugout and Crombar was awarded home and Petty to second and the Hurricanes were up, 1 to 0. Justin Toone recorded the inning’s first out with a fly ball and Jeff Whanger followed with another single off Spirits starter, John Holmquist and the Hurricanes had runners at the corners with nobody out. Whanger stole second to put both runners in scoring position and catcher, Patrick Bilgere’s throw wasn’t on the mark to catch Whanger as second. Petty took off for home on the throw to second and the relay from John Showalter at second back to the plate bounced out of Bilgere’s glove and the Canes led, 2 to 0.
Mason Gann added another Hurricanes single to push Whanger to third, but his stint at third didn’t last as Bilgere made a pick off move after a Holmquist pitch and Whanger was tagged out. Out number two celebration was short lived after Jack Sanders doubled to score Gann. Thomas Mohlner also singled, but Holmquist struck out Jose Guevara to kill the rally, however the Hurricanes led, 3 to 0.
The Spirits answered with a run of their own in the bottom half of the first after Lee beat out an infield single and then stole second. He later reached third after Kirk Sipila singled and a free pass to Bilgere loaded the bases for Brant Finchum. Finchum was called out on strikes and Lewis followed with a short fly ball to center that was deep enough to score Lee on the sacrifice fly. Guevara, handling Hurricanes pitching duties, was able to retire Brian Hackney with a fly out, but the Spirits cut the lead to, 3 to 1.
Holmquist needed just 4 pitches in the second to get Kirk Pruitt, David Brounoff, and Sean Judge to ground out and the Spirits followed by making it a game in the bottom half of the second when Showlater led things off with a single. Showalter stole second and Guevara was able to set Jack Nash down on strikes. With one on and one out, Holmquist drew a base-on-balls and Lee followed with a soft liner up the middle to load the bases. Sipila followed by wearing a Guevara pitch and the RBI hit-by-pitch cut the lead down to, 3 to 2. Bilgere then followed with heroics by picking up a pair of runs batted in with a single to score both Holmquist and Lee and the Spirits held a 4 to 3 lead after Guevara was able to get Finchum to fly out and Lewis to strike out.
Holmquist set the Hurricanes down in order for the second straight inning and despite getting Hackney on to lead off the third, a double-play killed opportunity for the Spirits in their half and the game remained 4 to 3 after three complete innings of play. The Hurricanes rallied in the fourth after both Whanger and Gann grounded out to start the inning. Sanders reached on an error and Mohlner singled to put two on with two out. Guevara followed with a shot down the third base lined that caromed off the glove of Finchum and Sanders was able to cross the plate on the play to tie the game at 4.
The game remained tied at 4 until the sixth inning, when the Spirits once again rallied for some runs. The Spirits were able to load the bases after Bilgere drew a walk and Finchum and Showalter singled, however Nash’s line drive to center field with two out was corralled by the Hurricanes center fielder to kill the rally. The same luck didn’t prevail in the sixth however, as David Tipton started things with a one-out single to left. Tipton stole second and advanced to third after Lee picked up his third hit on the evening by beating out another infield roller. Lee stole second and Sipila later walked to load the bases for Bilgere, who followed by picking up RBI’s 3 and 4 with a line drive single up the middle good enough to score Tipton and Lee. The Spirits added some additional insurance after Finchum was intentionally walked and Hackney then delivered with a two-out, 2 RBI single that scored both Sipila and Bilgere.
With an 8 to 4 lead, Lee turned to his side-armed throwing pitcher, Sipila to close things up. Despite a lead off single by Toone, Sipila was able to get Whanger, Gann, and Sanders to ground out to pick up the save and assist in putting the Spirits in the NTABL Brazos Division Fall Baseball Championship on Sunday.
“Great win tonight and a really nice round of comeback offense by the guys tonight. Patrick was awesome, Holmquist was sharp, and a number of guys really came through tonight when we needed them to,” Lee commented after his team’s victory. The Spirits advance to the championship round for the second straight Fall season as well as coming off of a Summer league championship. Lee continued, “It’s been a great year for us and a Fall championship would be an epic exclamation point if we can finish the job. Each and every guy on this team has put on the effort both on and off the field to make us a successful baseball club. I can’t thank them enough. The Knights will be a formidable opponent and we will be ready to bring our best form of baseball.”
The Knights defeated the Caddo Reds in the nightcap by a score of, 6 to 1. The Reds were the only team to beat the Spirits during their regular season championship run and in the two games played against the Knights, the Spirits were victors by scores of, 9 to 8 and, 7 to 2. Click here for more information on Sunday’s 2:00PM NTABL Brazos Division Fall Ball Championship.