(April 18, 2022 – Farmers Branch, TX) Bats were out swinging Monday night as the Spirits (45+) squad lined up against the Hurricanes at Oran Good Field for another classic match up of NTABL Masters League baseball. Those bats accounted for a fast 3-run start in the first and followed with a 5-spot in the second only to see that lead cut to one run in the third inning.
Eric McPherson reached on a one-out single in the first to kickoff a 3-for-3 performance on the night that would lead to him scoring 3 different times. He promptly stole second base and a single by Kirk Sipila moved him to third. Sipila was able to reach second on the relay to stop McPherson from scoring and both runners remained idle after Travis Hitzeman popped out. Will Nash drew a walk to load the bags and to keep the inning alive, and after Sean House was able to reach on an error that allowed McPherson to score, the Spirits had a 1 to 0 lead. Mike Sopocy followed by reaching on a dropped ball in the Hurricanes outfield that allowed both Sipila and Nash to score, and the Spirits had a 3 to 0 lead before Brian Hackney ended the inning with a ground out.
The Hurricanes answered with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning after Vince Parello drew a walk off of starter, Earl German, who was not please from the get go with calls being made by the plate umpire. The walk was quickly erased after Jack Nash lined out to House at second and house was able to relay to Hackney at first to pick off Parello for a double-play. But Rene Villalobos singled to keep the inning alive and an RBI double by Raul Ponce cut the lead to 3 to 1 before German and company were able to get out of the inning.
“Yeah, we had a little drama in the early going,” Shawn Lee commented following the game. “Bob (Delahunt) is a wiley pitcher for the Hurricanes. He knows us well and his ability to change speeds and throw you what essentially is an eephus, can be really challenging. Seemed to me from my perspective in the dugout, he was calling strikes from where the catcher was catching the ball. I wouldn’t call it egregious, but it was far from consistent and it was really bothering Earl not to get similar calls for his pitches. Some of our hitters were questioning his zone as well and it was getting heated. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and we just played some baseball.”
The concern for the zone didn’t seem to last long as the team returned to bat in the second and raked for another 5 runs to obtain an 8 to 1 lead. David Tipton doubled to start the inning and a walk to Lester Bedford put two on with nobody out. German became a victim to swings and that turned into a heated conflict that required the team put out a small fire between im and the plate umpire after German expressed his opinion of the umpire’s pride. After things settled, a passed ball allowed both runners to move up a base. Following a bad throw from the Hurricanes catcher that allowed Tipton to score, the Hurricanes relayed the bad throw into third and were able to tag out Bedford to record the inning’s first out. Chris Allen singled and McPherson drew a walk to keep the inning rolling. Sipila followed with an RBI single to score Allen and an error by the Hurricanes infield allowed Hitzeman to reach and load the bags. Nash singled home McPherson and House singled home Sipila and the Spirits had an 8 to 1 advantage after Hitzeman crossed the dish on the muffled relay before Sopocy flew out to close the inning.
The Hurricanes then rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom half of the second after Dave Wylie singled with one down. German struck out Joe Bockemehl, but a good old fashioned Spirits fielding error allowed Karl Morris to reach before German beaned Chad McCune to load the bags. Brad Petty followed with a two-out RBI single to score Wylie and a passed ball later, Morris was crossing the dish before Parello flew out to end the rally.
After the Spirits went 1-2-3 in the third, the Canes rallied back to cut the Spirits lead to one run after Jack Nash singled and Villalobos drew a walk. Ponce reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Nash at third, but a pair of Spirits fielding errors on back-to-back plays allowed for Eric Reifschneider and Samuel Peters to reach safely, and for Villalobos to score. A single by Michael Madsen scored Ponce and an error by Allen in center field allowed Reifschneider to score. Wylie then grounded out but Peters was able to score on the play before Bockemehl grounded out to stop the bleeding.
“When it rains, it pours for us,” Lee continued, reflecting on the bad inning. “Three errors combined with a walk and some good timing by their hitters. I don’t know why we love shooting ourselves in the foot on defense, but we do it time and time again. The good news is that you can never count our offense out. That’s a good thing to have, but as far as blood pressure goes? A few of us are screwed.”
The ghosts bounced back for a run in the fourth after German led off with a single and moved to second on an error by Parello in left field. McPherson followed with his second hit on the night and after Sipila reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed McPherson at second and moved German to third, Hitzeman followed through with an RBI single to give the Spirits a 9 to 7 lead.
That seemed to be all it took as the Spirits only tacked on insurance after that with a 7-run fifth inning that put the game away. House reached on an error and Sopocy singled. Hackney struck out looking and Tipton reached on an error to load the bases. Bedford hit for an RBI single to score House and German and Allen followed with another pair of RBI singles to plate Sopocy, Tipton, and Bedford. McPherson earned his third hit on the night and Sipila followed with a single that allowed German to score. The Canes turned to Reifscheider in relief, but the merry-go-round continued as Hitzeman greeted him with an RBI single to score Allen. Will Nash grounded out, but McPherson was able to score to make it 16 to 7, Spirits the rest of the way.
“We can’t let teams back into games,” Lee finalized in his post game summary. “We know this already, but we have to make plays. That’s been my soapbox phrase for the year so far. Make plays. The Canes can play. They proved that with their comeback, but we can’t give assists. It’ll cost us later and dearly at some point. But kudos to some great offense. Our guys can hit. As long as we can keep our foot on the gas, I think we can be in any ball game.”
The Spirits will return to action next Monday night when they visit the Rattlers at Oran Good Park. Game time is 6:30PM and you can view schedule details by clicking here. Be sure to download the iScore Central app to listen to games online.