(August 16, 2023 – Coppell, TX) Well, if there were any thoughts of avenging previously losses against the Reds, those thoughts weren’t present on Wednesday night. The Spirits (42+) squad took to the field against an opponent they most certainly owed something to and the team’s Kryptonite outside of the Dallas Cardinals appears to also come in the form of Alph Coleman.
The Spirits were able to scatter 12 hits against Coleman, but key moments failed to show up and scoring opportunities were missed as the ghosts left 10 runners on base. 4 errors in the field also contributed to 3 unearned runs that proved to be the difference in the game as the Reds earned a 10 to 8 victory and the right to move to the NTABL Masters (42+) Division championship.
Shawn Lee’s bat remained hot, as Lee knocked in a pair of doubles on a 2-for-2 performance that featured 3 runs scored, 3 runs batted in, and a free trip to first via a walk. Kirk Sipila added a pair of hits and a run scored, and both Shawn Hunt and Ryan Marsland added doubles on the night, with Hunt also knocking in a pair of runs and Marsland scoring once.
Sipila took the start for the Spirits, battled for 4 innings while giving up 5 earned off 7 hits while walking one and striking out none. Earl German picked up the last two for the ghosts, allowing 2 earned off 3 hits, while walking 3 and striking out 1.
“We were never really in it,” Lee mentioned afterwards. “I don’t know why we let the Reds get to us this season, but they owned us in each contest less one game we snuck away with. I’m thankful my bat was alive again and that I had opportunity to contribute, but we need a few key moments of that game to go a different route, and our normal heroes just weren’t taking names like they usually do. That’s baseball. You can love it and hate it. I hate it right now, but I still love playing with these guys.”
The Reds broke scoring ice in the first after Coleman singled with one out and performed his typical swipe second base task after two pitches. He didn’t get the opportunity to take third as he was busy scoring on the single by Gary Jackson to give the Reds an early lead. Jackson then stole second base and moved to third when Daniel Washington grounded out. Marlon Woods followed with a double to the right centerfield gap to score him before Sipila was able to retire Steven Nutt on a ground out.
The Spirits top three hitters went in order in the bottom half of the inning and Sipila returned the 1-2-3 inning after setting down TK Hayes, Chris Duty, and Jim Johann in the top half of the second.
The Spirits were then able to tie the game after Marsland and Lee both doubled, with Marsland crossing the dish on Lee’s extra base hit. A single by Brant Finchum moved Lee to third, and after Mike Sopocy lost a battle on strikes, David Tipton drew a walk to load the bags. Brian Hackney flew out to centerfield, a fly ball good enough to score Lee and the game was tied, 2 to 2. Hunt was hit by a pitch but Lester Bedford left the bags full after flying out to short right field to end the inning.
The third inning passed by quietly without scoring but the Reds broke the game open after putting up 6 runs in the top half of the fourth after Coleman tripled with one out. Jackson reached on a Spirits error that allowed Coleman to score, and a double by Washington scored Jackson. Wood singled to put runners on the corners and after Woods stole second base, a single by Nutt scored both runners. Nutt also stole second and later moved to third after Hayes grounded out. He was then able to score after Duty reached on another Spirits error. Johann made it two errors in a row and another run after Duty scored and the Reds held an 8 to 2 advantage before Jeffrey Smith finally flew out to quiet the sniffles coming out of the Spirits dugout.
Lee drew a walk to start the Spirits half of the fourth. He stole second base and the moved to third after Finchum singled and it appeared the Spirits may be in store for a bit of a rally. Sopocy replaced Finchum at first after reaching on a fielder’s choice that put out Finchum at second. Lee later scored on a sacrifice fly by Tipton, and Hackney kept the inning alive after being hit by a pitch. Hunt’s double scored both Sopocy and Hackney to cut the Reds lead down to 8 to 5, but Bedford stuck out to end the inning and to kill the rally.
The Spirits then turned to German and the Reds welcomed him with a single by Stacy Scott. James Roberts replaced Scott at first after reaching on a fielder’s choice and Brett Baker drew a walk. Coleman reached on another Spirits error and Roberts later scored when Jackson reached on a fielder’s choice. Washington flew out to end the inning but the Reds held a 9 to 5 advantage.
In the bottom of the fifth, the ghosts rallied for another 3 runs to cut the score down to 9 to 8 after Sipila and Travis Hitzeman both singled. Marsland lined out but Lee doubled to score both runners and later scored after Finchum reached on a Reds fielding error. Sopocy drew a walk and a single by Tipton loaded the bags, but Hackney grounded to the infield and the Reds were able to hit the easy bag to strand three runners and officially close scoring for the Spirits summer baseball season.
The Reds rallied for their tenth run in the sixth after Woods was hit by a pitch and Nutt walked. Hayes struck out but both runners moved on a wild pitch. Duty grounded out and the runners were held in place, but a single by Johann scored Woods before Smith walked and German was able to get Scott to fly out to end the inning.
With the league’s two hour time limit coming into play, the Spirits took to the dish in the bottom of the sixth knowing it was their last opportunity. Coleman was able to set down Hunt on a battle of strikes to start the inning and Bedford kept hopes alive with a single. McPherson grounded to the infield and reached on a fielder’s choice that putout Bedford, and Sipila singled to put two on with two out. Coleman was able to get Hitzeman to fly out and the Reds were off to the league’s championship.
“It’s disappointing,” Lee continued. “I’m not certain we would have beaten the Cardinals twice anyway. Sounds like sour grapes but we haven’t given that team an actual contest in a long time. But tonight? Tonight we should have found a way to win. We played uninspired baseball. A few guys played well. They know who they are and I’m proud of their hard work. But the fact is that we blew opportunities offensively and we did not make plays defensively. Take away the unearned runs and maybe we get a win. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but tonight they were the better team. Coleman is a tough win for us all the sudden.”
The Reds went on to face the Cardinals in the championship game with the Cardinals taking the game by a score of 5 to 0. The Cardinals finished the season with a perfect record of 18-0.