(April 27, 2017 – Carrollton, TX) Despite an angry Reverchon Park in Uptown, still wet from the rains a day before, the Spirits (35+) squad found solace in switching over to play the nightcap at the dark and friendly confines of McInnish Park, Field #10 in Carrollton. The squad hosted the NTABL Veterans League newcomer, Royals in what turned out to be a long night for the club. The Spirits took advantage of 10 free passes, combined with 4 Royals errors on the field to route the Royals by a final of 14 to 1 in five and a half innings of play.
With a gusting wind blowing in straight toward home plate from left field, pitching and hits were at a minimum. The Spirits were able to manage 9 hits to score 8 earned runs overall, but the night dragged with high pitch counts and long-awaited pitches to hit. Perennial All-Stars, Brant Finchum and Kirk Sipila both found no problems hitting as each veteran completed an evening of hitting going 2 for 2, each with a walk, run scored, and Finchum adding an additional 3 runs batted in. First baseman, Chris Lewis alongside a solid defensive performance by his second baseman, Jason Bottenfield, each added a double on the evening as did designated hitter, John Showalter.
The silver lining in the evening came in the form of pitcher and 2016 All-Star, Jonathan Duran. Duran had been on a short hiatus from pitching due to an eye injury, and with ace starter, Craig Molldrem out for the evening, opportunity presented itself for Duran to revisit the mound. Duran pitched 5 complete innings, giving up only 1 earned run on 6 hits, while striking out 4 hitters and walking 2.
“It was great to see Jonathan back on the hill for us,” commented team manager, Shawn Lee following the game. “I don’t know that we improved a lot this evening so you have to find small things to work on so you can plan for future games. Jonathan appears to have picked up right where he left off last season. He had a few tough innings getting the bases filled, but fortunately our defense came through and shut each of those opportunities down. Additionally, we got an inning out of Travis (Hitzeman) and it’s clear he’ll be yet another useful arm for us moving forward.”
One of the innings the Spirits team skipper was referring to came in the form in what was arguably the second triple-play in Spirits history. In the top of the third inning with the score 4 to 1 in the favor of the Spirits, the Royals started what appeared to be a great start to a rally. Kohl Prigge led off the inning by taking a 3-1 pitch up the middle for a single. Duran appeared poised to make a quick stop of the lead off hit, however Robert Trevino, Jr. singled on an 0-2 count and the Royals were in business with two on and nobody out. After also starting 0-2, Ron Glenn then watched Duran throw four straight pitches for a free pass, loading up the bases still with nobody out. This brought up the top of the Royals order and pitcher, Grancis Santana with an opportunity to play hero. Duran quickly found poise and delivered two strikes down the middle and Santana was looking at 0-2, but as fate would have it, Duran followed with three straight balls and suddenly the count was full and there was no place to put Santana. Duran delivered his payoff and what appeared might be called ball four. As Santana quickly took a step out of the box toward first and before a call on the pitch could be made, home plate umpire, Randy Mecca rang him up with a strike three call. In an unthinkable twist, each of the Royals runners anticipated a ball four call and moved off their respective bases. The Spirits defense made quick note of the blunder and catcher, Will Nash quickly fired to Hitzeman at third and the run down was in full swing. Hitzeman quickly ran down Prigge and relayed to Nash for the tag, but the play wasn’t finished. Trevino had made his way toward third base thinking he would catch the Spirits off guard, but Nash was able to again relay a throw back to Sipila who had covered third and Trevino was called out to finish the inning and a most unusual triple-play.
“I’m not even sure what to make of it,” continued Lee. “I felt bad for them. Their base runners appeared to be in complete chaos, but hey, we’ll take it. I’m just happy the guys were paying close attention. Hats off to Nash and Hitzeman for taking advantage of their mistakes. I was yelling into my co-captain to go talk to Jon (Duran) because I too, anticipated it was ball four. It all happened so fast. But my guys played until time was called. That’s what you get when you have solid veterans on your team. Not much gets past these fellas.”
The triple-play appeared to completely remove all hope from the faces of the Royals players, as the Spirits picked up 4 runs in the third and fourth innings, followed by 2 more in the fifth. Hitzeman made his first appearance as a Spirits pitcher, closing out the top half of the sixth by striking out two of the three hitters he faced. The victory keeps the Spirits at a perfect 5-0 as the team will enjoy a bye week during May 4 game play.
Join the team back in action on May 11, as they travel to McInnish Park, Field #11 to visit the Cardinals. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30PM.