(June 17, 2020 – Euless, TX) With months to chomp at the bit and to get back on the field of play, the calendar and all the obstacles that were in the way including the COVID-19 pandemic finally stepped aside for baseball Wednesday night in the DFW ABA 40+ League. The Spirits (40+) squad, donning slick new uniforms and caps dusted off the arms and hit the field of play but did it in a fashion that wasn’t quite the “hit” as a great movie but rather hitting their chins on the turf as they stumbled to field the baseball.
It was clear rust was evident and the excitement of playing the game was far in the distance as the squad performed lackluster at best. This sort of play can be expected after a long layoff and limited practice but the squad really didn’t appear to be fired up about anything. The team only managed 4 hits compared to 11 hits from the Spurs and 3 fielding errors helped contribute to a 6 to 3 loss to kickoff the 2020 summer baseball campaign that many thought might not even happen.
It was actually the Spirits who looked ready to play after starting pitcher and newcomer, Dan Sosa was able to get out of a bases loaded situation in the bottom half of the first when he was able to get Erick Castro to fly out to end the first inning scoreless. The Spirits returned to start the second inning with Bobby Kornhauser wearing a pitch to put one on with one out. Brant Finchum and David Tipton both drew walks to load the bases and after Earl German went down on swings, catcher John Hefner came through clutch with a two-out, 2 RBI single that gave the Spirits a 2 to 0 lead before Eric McPherson grounded out to end the top half the inning. The Spurs rebounded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning after Hector Aguilar doubled and stole third and then later scored on a single by Ron Kramer.
Advance to the bottom of the third where the Spurs picked up a pair of runs to gain a 3 to 2 lead after Andy Castro lead the inning off with a single and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Elvis Sanchez followed with a single and one of the game’s very few highlights showed its face in the form of Tipton in center field coming up slinging. Tipton was able to field the ball and then launch an absolute strike to home plate. As Castro rounded third and attempted to score on the single, Hefner stood at the dish waiting for him with the ball and he was tagged out easily. Unfortunately the momentum didn’t last for the Spirits. Sosa’s pitch count began to climb as the home plate ump sat at least 3 feet behind the catcher and didn’t seem to have any bit of a strike zone. Sosa worked feverishly to try to please the umpire’s mythical strike zone and that allowed Spurs hitters a ton of time to be patient. The patience paid off as Johnny Pivhardo drew a walk and was able to later score on a single by Edgar Tac. Roughned Odor, Sr. was able to score Pivhardo after reaching on another Spirits fielding error and the Spurs had the mid-game lead.
The Spirits were able to tie things up in the top half of the fourth after Chris Lewis reached on a one-out walk. Lewis swiped second and Kornhauser went down swinging, but Finchum kept the inning alive by drawing a walk and Lewis was able to score on an RBI single by Tipton. Finchum reached third and Tipton later swiped second, but the inning ended with a 3-2 count to German after Finchum got greedy trying to swipe home on a wild pitch. The ball caromed off of the back wall right back to the catcher and the Spurs were able to easily relay the toss back to the pitcher to tag Finchum out at the plate to end the inning.
Tied at 3 to 3 and headed into the bottom of the fourth inning, Spirits fielding errors helped pave the way for a Spurs lead that would prove to be the difference. After Kramer reached on an error, Jay Beck drew a walk and bother runners stole to advance to second and third. Dave Burtzlaff followed with a double after left fielder, Shawn Lee misjudged the roller in the outfield allowing both runners to score instead of just one and to give the Spurs a 5 to 3 edge. Lee was able to chase down the ball however, and the relay back to Finchum and then to Stacy Scott at third was in time to gun down Burtzlaff, but the Spurs had the lead.
The Spirits returned to the top half of the fifth hoping to rally after German drew a lead off walk, but Hefner grounded into the cliche, tailer-made 6-4-3 double-play and the air seemed to fizzle from the Spirits dugout. McPherson singled but was left stranded after Scott battled through seven pitches before eventually going down on swings to end the inning. The Spurs made it 6 to 3 following a pair of one-out singles from Pivhardo and Tac, and Pivhardo was able to later score on another Spirits fielding error to seal the win for the Spurs.
Krk Sipila led off with a single in the top half of the sixth, but Lee went down on swings and both Sosa and Lewis were retired in order to end the game due to time constraints.
“Not the start we were looking for,” noted club manger Shawn Lee following the game. “I thought the itch to play, the new unis, getting back together as a group would have us a little fired up but we were rusty. The Spurs were patient hitters so you have to give them credit. And it seemed anything we hit to their fielders was easy to play. It sounds stupid and ironic at the same time, but the ball just didn’t roll our way. I didn’t realize social distancing meant calling strikes from 3 feet behind the catcher, but the ump did his best so no blame there. Just seems like the calls didn’t go our direction either. We’ll take this one as ‘practice’ for lack of a better adjective and I’ll just hope that this game means more to the guys the next time we take the field. We have a certain lackadaisical trait that I would expect after a long season, not game one. But there’s a lot going on in people’s lives right now outside of baseball and that doesn’t fall short to any of us. We’ll get back after it in the next one…”
Sipila led the Spirits with a pair of hits, while Tipton finished 1-for-1 with a walk and an RBI. Hefner completed the topping of the box with a single and a pair of RBIs as the three earn Waxahachie Autoplex Players of the Game honors. The team returns to action next Wednesday night as they visit the Rangers on Legends Field at Texas Star in Euless. First pitch is scheduled for 8:45PM.