(October 4, 2017 – Plano, TX) In what appeared to be a beautiful October evening for baseball with a full moon on the rise, turned out to become a nightmare for the newcomer NTABL Fall Ball Thunderbirds this past Wednesday night at Graham Field.
The Spirits (Brazos) squad used a 15-hit attack to beat down the ‘Birds in eventually what would turn out to be a football score before the game was over. The Spirits scored in every inning to cruise to a 17 to 3 win in a shortened game to due time constraints. Brant Finchum picked up the win defensively as he went the distance pitching 5 complete innings, giving up 5 hits and 0 earned runs while striking out 4 hitters compared to one base on balls. Finchum also carried the load offensively for the ghosts, picking up a pair of hits, 2 free trips to first, and 3 runs batted in while also scoring once. Every Spirit hit safely with the exception of one, with 6 Spirits recording more than one hit.
“Finch is on an absolute tear right now,” commented team skipper, Shawn Lee following the landslide win. “He pitched really well tonight and flirted with a no-no for a couple innings before a couple of check swings and swinging bunts essentially broke it up. Offensively, he’s killing it, batting over .800 right now. We’re happy to see last year’s Masters League MVP getting it done.”
Finchum and company started off quickly offensively in the top half of the first inning when David Tipton led the game off with a walk. Tipton quickly stole second and Kirk Sipila reached on an error to put 2 on with one out as Thunderbirds pitcher and team manager, Steve Strong was able to set down Jason Bottenfield on strikes during the previous at-bat. Shortstop, Travis Hitzeman followed with an RBI single good to score Tipton and Sipila was able to tag from third on a deep sacrifice fly hit by Lee to center field. With one on and two out, Patrick Bilgere reached on an error and pushed Hitzeman to third. Bilgere quickly nabbed second to put both runners in scoring position for the night’s hero, Finchum and he fulfilled that role with a 2-RBI single and later scored after Chris Lewis crushed a double down the left field line and the Spirits led 5 to 0.
Finchum set the Thunderbirds down in order on a 7-pitch first inning and the Spirits picked up where they left off in the top half of the second by picking up another three runs after Jack Nash singled to start the inning. Nash stole second and Tipton drew a free pass for the second time. Bottenfield singled to score Nash and Tipton later scored on a single by Sipila. Hitzeman drew a walk just after Bottenfield was caught attempting to steal third and Lee followed with a hard single to center field to load the bases. Bilgere reached on a fielder’s choice, which squeezed Sipila at the plate, however Hitzeman was able to score after Finchum drew a free pass to first. Strong was able to get Lewis to ground out to kill the rally.
The ghosts picked up another 4 runs in the third with singles from Dennis Gonzalez, Hitzeman, Bilgere, and Finchum and the Spirits led 12 to 0. The Thunderbirds broke the offensive ice in the bottom of the third after Daniel Allen singled with two outs. Felipe (Phil) Luna reached on a Spirits fielding error and Jeff Hayes also singled on a little dribbler in front of the plate that landed in no-man’s-land. Allen later scored on a wild pitch delivered from Finchum and Reid Stovall followed with a single to score Luna. Finchum was able to get Michael Dossey on swings and after three full innings, the Spirits were up 12 to 2.
The Spirits added another pair of runs in the fourth inning on a single by Nash and after Tipton reached on an error. Bottenfield reached on a fielder’s choice that saw Nash cut down at the plate on a base-running blunder, and Tipton later scored after Sipila drew a walk and Hitzeman reached on an error. Bottenfield also scored when the throw to first landed in the Spirits dugout, but Strong regained his team’s composure after striking out Lee on a pair of curveballs.
The Spirits went on to pick up another three runs in the fifth before the contest was finally called due to time constraints, ending with Finchum striking out Hayes to end the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. The victory brings the Spirits (Brazos) squad record to 4-1, and they return to action on Sunday morning as they host the Hurricanes at Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas. First pitch is slated for 11:00AM.
Waxahachie Autoplex Players of the Game