(July 18, 2018 – Plano, TX) A few weeks ago, the Spirits (18+) was more concerned about making the playoffs rather than gazing at the number one seed. After the past 3 games, the ship appears to have turned in the right direction as manager, John Showalter and company have put together 3 straight wins down the stretch to not only get back into the hunt, but to prove they can compete with the high level of talent displayed within the NTABL Open National League.
After a perfect 7-0 start to the season, the team spiraled with 6 losses in a 7 game stretch that also included a tie before breaking back into the win column last week. A few changes to the pitching rotation and the batting lineup has proved to be a positive move and the team has rebounded with a 3 game winning streak with just 2 games remaining in the regular season.
Pitcher, Duane Aponte was back to last year’s form Wednesday night that earned him the NTABL Open American League, Pitcher-of-the-Year award alongside 11 victories. Aponte pitched 6 solid innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just 6 hits while striking out 4 and walking 1. All-Star and former MLB Astros product, Kyle Redinger added a 3-for-3 performance from the plate including a run scored and an RBI to lead the team offensively. Eric Goetz also went perfect from the plate with two hits on the evening.
Despite a lead off single by Jordan Hebert and a walk to Brian Gaffney in the top half of the first inning for the Outlaws, Aponte was able to set Kevin Brand down on swings before getting the next Outlaws hitter to ground into a double-play. The Spirits then used this momentum in the bottom half of the inning as Cliff Brade led off with a single and then eventually stole second base. Holden Novak lined out, but Redinger followed with the first of his three singles on the evening and it was good enough to score the speedy Brade from second. The Outlaws then used their defense to kill the short rally by spinning a pair on Teddy Croft to end the inning.
The Outlaws showed some promise in the top half of the second after Glenn Wilson led the inning off with a double. Nick Helton took to the plate and would eventually single, but not before Wilson greedily attempted to swipe third. Croft was able to gun him down during the pilferage attempt and the single was moot as Aponte followed by striking out Adam Lasek and then Tyler King. The lost run could have certainly been a difference moving forward into the game’s final inning of play. The Spirits followed up with a pair of singles by Cody Bishop and Goetz, but the squad wasn’t able to find a way to plate either of the runners and after two complete, the Spirits held a 1 to 0 advantage.
Things remained quiet until the bottom half of the fourth after Redinger reached with one out. Croft followed with a single that pushed Redinger to third and an RBI sacrifice fly ball from Showalter allowed Redinger to tag and score to make it 2 to 0 Spirits.
The defense was solid again in the fifth after Lasek reached with a lead off single, but was later squeezed at second after King reached on a fielder’s choice. One pitch later, David Humen grounded into another double-play that ended the inning quickly and allowed the Spirits again to return to the offense side of things with some momentum. Mike Werner led off the bottom half of the inning with a single and Goetz followed up with a single to put two on with nobody out. Nate Martinez grounded into a double-play, but Werner was able to advance to third on the play and would later score when Ro Castro hit an RBI single to make it 3 to 0, Spirits.
Both teams went quietly in the sixth, setting up another save opportunity for Conner Comacho. Showalter turned to the young gun once again, but the Outlaws weren’t quite finished making noise. Gaffney welcomed Comacho to the game with a lead off single and advanced to second after the Spirits infield was able to get Brand on a ground ball out to first. A balk by Comacho allowed Gaffney to move to third and he later scored on a passed ball before Comacho was able to finally strike out the next Outlaws hitter. Wilson drew a walk to keep things interesting and Helton battled profusely, drawing a base-on-balls after a 10-pitch at-bat that featured 5 foul balls. Comacho and company were able to get Lasek to ground out to end the game and seal the victory, but not without a little rally drama.
“Another great win tonight from the guys,” commented Showalter following his team’s victory. “That lost run earlier in the game was huge, so credit to Teddy for making a great throw to me at third to cut their runner short. Another solid performance from Redinger as well. The guy’s a stud and he gets it done at all times, even when the rest of the offense isn’t clicking. Great night for (Eric) Goetz at the dish as well and I was really happy to see the performance from Aponte tonight. He dialed in and was feeling it. The Outlaws are a great hitting team and he kept them off balance tonight. We’ll need more of that as we move into these final two games and into the postseason. Very happy to see the squad running like a fine-tuned machine. We’ll need to be if we want to compete for that championship.”
The team revisits the diamond this coming Sunday as they’ll wrap up the hat trick of games against the Outlaws at John Paul II High School starting at 6:00PM. Click here for schedule details, to obtain driving directions, or to download the iScore Central app to watch the game virtually live and online!