(July 24, 2019 – Grapevine, TX) It was a best of three series and the Spirits (40+) squad expected the big bats of the Astros to push that series to three games, but the ghosts and their offense had other plans Wednesday night. Eric McPherson remained on fire as the team’s lead off hitter and fresh off a big performance the night before, the veteran former shortstop turned designated hitter picked up right where he left off. McPherson finished the night 3-for-3 with a run scored and a pair of RBIs as he and the rest of the Spirits offense once again went off, winning 11-2 and finishing the evening with 12 hits.
Pitcher, John Holmquist was also the story as he finished with a shortened complete-game victory, pitching all five innings while allowing just 2 runs on 9 hits. The game finished shortened due to the league’s two hour game time limit.
After Dan Zier led the Astros and the game off with a single, Christopher Brooks lined out, but Aaron Lowe reached on a Spirits fielding error to give the Astros two on with one out. After both runners advanced a base and into scoring position on a pitch that got passed Spirits catcher, John Hefner, Joseph Crites made his way to the dish. The Astros number four hitter wasted no time lacing a 2-1 pitch hard to left field where outfielder, Shawn Lee gave chase. Lee hesitated at first, appearing he may try to stop the ball where it was headed for contact with the turf, but he then continued his pursuit and snared the flaring ball at the last moment. Without wasting a step to celebrate, Lee came up throwing to Travis Hitzeman at third base and the two were able to cut down Zier for an inning-ending double-play and to kill the rally.
Carrying the momentum of the double-play to the bottom half the inning, the offense came alive as it did the night before starting with McPherson battling a 9-pitch at-bat and finally coming up with a double to left-center field to lead things off. Stacy Scott followed with a single, but McPherson was held up on the play. Kirk Sipila followed up with another single to load the bases and Hitzeman became the first offensive hero of the night as he singled to advanced all runners, allowing both McPherson and Scott to score. Lee then reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Hitzeman at second and later stole second to put both base runners in scoring position, and Patrick Bilgere kept the inning alive with a double that scored both runners to give the Spirits a 4 to 0 lead.
The Astros rebounded with a pair of runs in the second after Daron Wilkinson and Todd McClurg both singled. Wilkinson was able to advance on a Spirits fielding error and after a fly out by Scott Rodgers, McClurg was able to swipe second to put both Astros runners in scoring position. James Schreiber followed with a sacrifice fly to score Wilkinson and a single by Justin Van Slyke scored McClurg to cut the lead to, 4 to 2.
The Spirits picked up another run in the bottom half of the inning when Brant Finchum led the inning off with a double. Brian Hackney then lined out and Earl German grounded out to push Finchum to third. McPherson followed with his second hit of the game and the Spirits led, 5 to 2.
The Spirits then opened up and put the game away for good in the bottom half of the third when Hitzeman led things off by reaching on an error. Lee drew a base-on-balls and a single by Bilgere scored Hitzeman from second. David Tipton then doubled to score Lee and the Spirits offense was cruising. The Astros turned to some heavier heat from McClurg as he replaced Nathan Phillips at pitcher, but the Spirits offense was in no mood to quit. Hefner welcomed McClurg by reaching on an Astros fielding error that allowed Bilgere to score and a walk to Bobby Kornhauser put runners on the corners. A single by Finchum kept the scoreboard busy as Tipton was able to score on the play and after Hackney went down on an infield fly, German was able to reach on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Finchum at second, but allowed Hefner to score. McPherson’s third hit on the night scored Kornhauser to give the Spirits an 11 to 2 lead that would remain intact until the game’s final.
“When we hit the ball, we’re hard to beat,” commented Lee following his team’s victory. “Sipila manages our squad well and he puts players in position to succeed. We know we have guys that can hit, but it takes skill to put those players in the right spots to be successful and Kirk does that. McPherson was a beast tonight and has been all season long from the plate and Holmquist was outstanding, keeping some great bats off balance tonight with a great mix of pitches. Hefner called a great game behind the dish tonight and John (Holmquist) recognized that as made it known to the rest of us. We’ll focus on the next team on the playoff schedule and we’ll continue to battle for a championship if we can.”
The team will have their hands full next week as the win provides them the opportunity to visit the first place Drillers (15-1), who had a first round bye. The double-header will take place on Tuesday night at Texas Star Complex on Legends Field with the first pitch of game one slated for 6:30PM. Click here for schedule details for game one and here for schedule details for game two.