(April 2, 2022 – Carrollton, TX) With Christmas 267 days away, the Spirits (50+) team just could wait to give. Like an anxious child awaiting to rip over his presents, the Spirits were in a giving mood and it displayed in the form of a disappointing 12 to 10 loss to Sultanes Rockers at McInnish Park Saturday morning.
The Spirits left a total of 13 runners on base, twice leaving bases loaded with nobody out and scoring no runs. To exacerbate poor play, the team also used 6 errors to turn what appeared would be a sneak-away win into a loss.
The generosity started immediately in the top half of the first when the Spirits gave up a half dozen runs, starting with the first grounder from the first Rockers hitter. That was followed by 3 straight hits including a double, and just like that, the ghosts were down 2 to 0. It appeared the team would get out of it, but a routine ground ball to second base that should have been a double-play ball was missed, thus allowing another runner to reach base. A single by Tony Sanchez scored 2 more runs for the Rockers, and the team went on to add another pair of runs to make it 6 to 0.
The Spirits offense rallied in the bottom half of the inning after Eric McPherson and Kirk Sipila reached on back to back singles. Shawn Lee flew out and it seemed the team may miss out on opportunity, but Mike Sopocy followed with an RBI single and went on to steal second. Sipila was then able to score on an RBI single by Vince Parello that allowed Sopocy third. Parello took second base and John Hefner followed with an RBI single to make to 6 to 3 before Stacy Scott grounded out.
The Spirits allowed another run to cross the dish in the second and followed by going 1, 2, 3 in the bottom of the second that included a pair of strikeouts. Fortunately, Spirits starting pitcher John Holmquist was able to get the Rockers to repeat a 1, 2, 3 themselves and it left opportunity for the Spirits offense to get the team back into the game. McPherson took to the base paths a second time during the third inning after reaching on a one-out double. McPherson then stole third and scored easily after Sipila belted an RBI triple to right center field. Lee followed with an RBI single to score Sipila, and moments later stole second. Sopocy went down on swings and Lee moved to third on a balk by the Rockers pitcher. Parello then picked up his second RBI of the game with a single to score Lee and the score was now 7 to 6.
Another Spirits fielding error led to another Rockers run in the fourth inning and with an 8 to 6 lead, the Spirits loaded the bases with nobody out. Despite a horrific start to the game, it appeared the team may get back into the ball game, but a pair of strikeouts and an excuse-me swing that led to a ground out to the pitcher left the Spirits shaking their heads as they headed back to the field for defense.
“It’s pretty frustrating to watch us do the things we do,” Lee commented following the team’s loss. “We have no excuses for the way we play sometimes. Self-included. We turn easy plays into multiple errors. We don’t seem to make big plays when big plays are needed. We almost always play to the level of our competition. Nothing against the Rockers, but it’s not like they’re sending out Ohtani and Trout against us. Short line drives and slaps, but none of us can field the ball or make a catch that would get us over the hump. At least that’s how it feels sometimes. But that’s baseball. It can be great at times, but when it wants to put you in your place, it does not hesitate to do so. We could have used some help from the umpires. Their pitcher was constantly balking and it gave them an advantage. I discussed it with the plate ump and he told me that he was telling the pitcher it was happening. What the hell does that mean? If you see it, call it. This isn’t little league. It happened to us again in the fourth and it cost us a run. It’s not acceptable, but that’s the skill level we get for men’s league baseball. Guys who feel like we should feel honored to be on the field, yet we’re the ones actually paying to play and paying them. I don’t have time for these amateurs with attitudes.”
The Rockers made a little noise in the fifth after putting a few runners aboard, including more fielding issues by the Spirits defense, but the team was fortunate to hold them from extending the lead. What’s better, is the team again rallied in the bottom half of the inning and eventually took the lead after Sipila singled to start the inning and Lee followed with a double. Sopocy singled to center to easily score Sipila and Lee found another gear and was able to plate the tying run before the throw was relayed home. A fired up dugout lead to additional work at the dish as Parello was able to reach on an error and Hefner was hit by a pitch to load the bags. Scott went down on swings and Dan Sosa reached on a fielder’s choice that cut down Sopocy at home, but a single by Jack Nash scored Parello and the Spirits had a 9 to 8 lead before Holmquist grounded out to end the rally.
The Spirits held the Rockers scoreless in the sixth and the Spirits had a chance for another run in the bottom of the inning after Chris Allen doubled to lead things off. McPherson and Sipila flew out, but the Rockers didn’t give Lee a chance for paydirt and intentionally walked him. This gave Sopocy the opportunity for the insurance run, but the Rockers were able to get him to fly out to end the inning. All the Spirits needed was three outs. Queue up the “Spirits inning” music…
Carlos Mendez led off with a single and Sopocy walked Jose Garcia. The Spirits infield met and discussed options for obvious upcoming bunt and one pitch later, the bunt was dropped straight to Sopocy on the mound. With the team yelling “three, three, three,” and Mike thinking make the throw to first, he fielded the ball and made an off-balance pirouette in his move to Nash standing at the bag at third. The throw made its way to the left field foul area and both runners were able to score with the Cesar Acosta making his way to third on the Little League play. A follow up single by Oscar Aloyo scored Acosta and the Rockers were up by two runs. The Spirits finally recorded an out after Carlos Cruz reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Aloyo, but Edgar Diaz wore the next pitch delivered by Sopocy to keep the inning rolling. Sanchez reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Diaz, but Cruz scored and it was 12 to 9, Rockers before Sammy Vivies flew out to finally end the inning.
The Spirits were able to plate another run in the bottom of the seventh, but couldn’t find enough offense to get over the hump, eventually losing by a score of 12 to 10.
“Not much more to say about this one,” Lee continued. “We gave it to them. They made some plays, but we gave it to them. That’s how I’m walking away from this one anyway. We need to play better. We need guys to step up and score runners when they’re on base. We need guys to step up and make plays, not just settle for routines. We are an above average baseball team and we’re setting for poor baseball play. We stunk up the place in Vegas to start the year and the product has been subpar all season. I know we have plenty of season left, but nobody fears playing us. That needs to change. I don’t know how you make guys get a chip on their shoulders as baseball doesn’t have cheerleaders, but we need to find a better recipe. Otherwise we’re no different that those guys across the street slapping the big green and yellow ball.”
The team will get a chance to redeem itself when they visit the Cubs next Saturday night. First pitch is 11:45AM at McInnish Park, Field #10. Click here for schedule details and don’t forget to download the iScore Central app to listen online.