(October 20, 2019 – Plano, TX) The wind was blowing in hard per usual at the friendly confines of Graham Field at Prestonwood Christian Academy, and not that either starting pitcher needed any assistance delivering the ball to home plate, but it gave an added punch to the pair of big arms that squared off against each other to hitters who took position in the batter’s box with wind whistling through their ear holes.
The Spirits sent out hard-throwing, Jason Bottenfield to square off against the Knights and hard-throwing Keaton Hougen. Neither pitcher disappointed as both players made pretty easy work of most of the batters they faced. Hougen completed his evening allowing 2 earned on 4 hits, while walking 3 and striking out 7 while his counterpart Bottenfield finished the night going the distance allowing no runs on 3 hits with 9 strikeouts and no walks.
The Spirits took advantage of a few plays that allowed them the opportunity to obtain a 1 to 0 lead, which appeared would be good enough in this pitcher’s duel, but Brant Finchum played the role of hero in the top half of the sixth inning with a 2-out, 2-run double that sealed the game before it was called due to lightning in the area. The Spirits obtained their first run in the bottom half of the first following a top half inning scare by the Knights. Chris Clark lead things off by reaching on an error and after Roger Battani flew out, Haley Hougen doubled to deep left-center field to put both runners in scoring position. Bottenfield was able to get Matthew Lawley swinging and a fly out by Justin Toone to center ended the threat.
Cliff Brade then led off the bottom half of the inning with a single and proceeded to swipe second base. Bottenfield grounded out and after Eric Goetz reached on an error, Brade was able to score after the ball snuck away from Battani at first and the Spirits had the lead. Goetz then stole second, one of his 3 stolen bases on the night, but Hougen made quick work of Shawn Lee and Finchum to end the inning with a pair of strikeouts.
The score remained intact until the sixth inning when light rain began to fall and lightning in the area began to intensify before storms and tornadoes took over the North Dallas area. Brade drew a walk to start things off and after reaching second on a wild pitch, he took off for third to attempt getting a better opportunity to score. Unfortunately, bad timing jumped in as a Bottenfield took that incoming pitch hard and straight to Toone at shortstop and he was able to easily relay to second to force out Brade. Just like that there were two outs and no base runners. Goetz then drew a walk on 4 pitches and he too then stole second base to put himself into scoring position. Lee also drew a 4-pitch walk and on the next pitch to Finchum, Goetz took off for third and appeared would be out by a mile. The Knights catcher relayed a throw to third and spot-on to get Goetz out, but the third baseman dropped the ball as Goetz slid in and he was safe. On the next pitch, Lee began a slow jaunt to second base in an attempt to bait the Knights into a pickle play, but they didn’t bite and Lee walked into second to put both runners into scoring position. Finchum then worked the count to 2-2 before crushing a ball to the gap for a two-out, 2-run double to pick up his second hit on the night and to record the game’s best hit ball. At that point, Mother Nature and the umpires had seen enough because as fast as Finchum arrived to second, the sky lit up with lightning bolts and the game was called due to safety.
“Outstanding job tonight by both Bottenfield and Finchum,” commented Lee as he and his teammates scampered toward their vehicles. “Jason seemed to have a little extra tonight on his pitches and I don’t think it had anything to do with wind. He was rested and man, he looked great. And Finchum was patient tonight at the plate and his work paid off. We certainly felt a huge sigh of relief getting those insurance runs and we were fortunate to get out of having to face some very good hitters there in the seventh due to the game being called. The Knights are an excellent team and I’m plenty sure we’ll be discussing a game against them in the playoffs.”
The victory moves the team to 8-1 on the shortened fall season and earns them at least a tie of the outright regular season championship before playoffs begin in just over a week in NTABL Fall League Brazos Division play. The team will be idle on Wednesday, but returns to action as they visit the TX Knights at North Lake College next Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 2:15PM and you can click here for schedule details.