(October 30, 2016 – Dallas, TX) It was a perfect day for baseball and even more perfect for the Dallas Spirits Fall Team as they closed out the final game of baseball at Jesuit College Preparatory for 2016 by finishing a perfect season and earning the NTABL Fall Ball Brazos League Title. The Spirits finished a perfect 12-0 behind pitcher Craig Molldrem, who struck out 13 Cubs en route to a complete game victory.
“Craig was in shutdown mode once again. We couldn’t be more thankful for his skills as a pitcher,” mentioned a celebratory Shawn Lee after the game. “We were short a few studs for today’s game so it was really important that Craig had a good game for us and I also thought we’d need a good one from Patrick (Bilgere) at catcher for us today and they followed through. That really helped. We had a slow start, but the bats came alive and we were able to put together a solid inning there in the fifth to seal it. Really proud of these guys!”
Things did in fact start slowly and in favor of the underdog Cubs. Molldrem struck out two of his first three hitters to start the game, however the Spirits followed by sending only four hitters to the plate. Newcomer Keith Wallace singled with two outs, but Shawn Lee grounded out to follow. The Cubs again brought life to their offensive start of the second inning when slugger Jimmy Richardson hit a scorching shot off the glove of second baseman Jonathan Duran. Molldrem was able to get Michael Hepburn to fly out and proceed to strikeout the next to hitters to kill the rally.
In the bottom half of the second, the Spirits made some noise, however a base running error left the ghouls scoreless. Molldrem flew out to start the inning and John Show grounded out. Patrick Bilgere singled and was replace by Show for a courtesy running scenario. Dennis Gonzalez then took a 3-1 pitch to left-center field and Show ran through the stop sign trying to reach third. The Cubs relayed the throw and were able to tag Show out to end the inning.
“Things were a little tense after that point,” continued Lee. “John missed my sign to stop and then to slide and I probably wasn’t vocal enough to let him know in the moment. Killed our 2-out rally and I think there were some nerves because we’re not quite used to being scoreless this Fall.”
The Cubs then drew first blood in the third when Molldrem hit the first two hitters, putting two on and nobody out. Thomas Young grounded out to Duran, who’s only play was first and the Cubs were in business with two runners in scoring position with one out. Michael Carrigan then grounded out, but was able to score Justin Toone who was sitting at third. Molldrem was able to strikout Brad Leveridge to end the inning, but the Spirits found themselves behind, 1 to 0.
The squad was able to rebound, however. Matt Topps drew a walk to start the Spirits’ half of the third and Cliff Brade replaced him at first after grounding into a fielder’s choice. Brade then swiped second base and Duran singled and send Brade to third. Wallace then singled to score Brade and the Spirits had runners on first and second with one out. Lee then took the first pitch from Cubs pitcher Tim Trout between the shortstop and third baseman to score Duran and the Spirits had a 2 to 1 lead. It appeared they were poised for more after Molldrem drew a walk, however the Cubs were able to get Show to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the rally. The solid play on defense shut down the inning, however it appeared the Spirits had definitely picked up some momentum.
“Yeah, there was definitely some relief,” commented Lee. “We meant business today and the Cubs weren’t really in the mood to hand us anything so we needed to earn it. That made it fun, but there were definitely some nerves. Getting those first two runs definitely changed the attitude of the guys. We were more relaxed and it showed over the next few innings.”
Roger Battani singled in the Cubs half of the fourth, but Molldrem was able to strike out Scott Bale and Richardson. Hepburn walked and Molldrem finished off the Cubs fourth by striking out Bobby Caltabiano. The Spirits mustered a base on balls drawn by Bilgere and a single by Topps in the fourth, but weren’t successful in scoring before the Cubs were able to get Brade and Duran to ground out. Molldrem struck out and additional pair of Cubs in the fifth and the Spirits showed up for some big offense in the bottom portion of the inning.
Wallace nailed a screaming line drive to left but directly at the Cubs left fielder for the first out. Lee singled and advanced to second on a Molldrem single. Show scored Lee on a single to left and both Molldrem and Show scored on a triple by Bilgere to the right field wall. Bilgere then scored on a wild pitch and Gonzalez drew a walk. Matt Topps then tripled to score Gonzalez, but was later tagged out trying to take home on a fielder’s choice which left Brade safe at first. Brade promptly stole second and then scored on a single by Duran and just like that, the Spirits were up 8 to 1 after a 6-run fifth inning.
The Spirits added an additional run in the sixth inning after Molldrem walked and Show was hit by a pitch. Bilgere singled to right-center to score Molldrem, and that gave you the championship final score of 9 to 1 as Molldrem was able to strike out two of the final three Cubs hitters he faced.
“Outstanding feeling,” continued Lee. “We felt we failed a bit during the summer on completing our goals and this definitely helped. I’m extremely proud of the guys. Each piece of the puzzle fell into place this Fall. Molldrem was outstanding finishing at 7-0, as was Duran who finished 4-0. Whether it was guys who were showing up for each game or our backup players who came in to contribute for one ore more games, they all impacted this finish and played a role to gets us a win each game. We’re excited about our future in the NTABL and look forward to next season!”