(June 12, 2023 – Coppell, TX) There may have been a small amount of revenge on the minds of the Spirits (42+) squad Monday night as they visited the Reds at Cowboy Field in Coppell. Looking to hang onto the number two seed in the NTABL Masters (42+) League standings, the Spirits needed a victory to pull away from the Reds after a previous meltdown led to a 5 to 2 loss in their previous matchup.
Despite missing five typical starters and some offensive bats that would make any team cringe, the Spirits found a way to compile 14 hits off of former Atlanta Braves product and Reds starting pitcher, Alph Coleman. Every Spirits hitter hit safely except one, with Eric McPherson and Shawn Lee leading the way finishing with 3 hits each. Lee had his best game since returning from offseason shoulder surgery and both players finished with a run batted in and a stolen base. McPherson added a run scored and Lee scored twice, complementing key hits by Kent Fischer, who knocked in a pair of runs and finishing with a pair of hits on the night. Mike Sopocy added a hit, run batted in on a sacrifice fly, and a walk to highlight the Spirits box score.
The Spirits picked up a quick 1 to 0 lead in the first inning after McPherson singled and Lee reached on a fielder’s choice that put out McPherson at second. Lee moved to second on a single my Sopocy and scored two pitches later when Fischer singled to left. Brian Hackney went down looking, and after Sopocy and Fischer stole bags to move into scoring position, Coleman was able to win the battle of strikes against Shawn Hunt to stave off any additional scoring opportunity for the ghosts.
In the bottom half of the second, the Reds tied the game after TK Hayes singled and later scored after Carlos Valles and James Roberts followed with back-to-back singles as well. Stacy Scott reached on a fielder’s choice that put out Roberts at second and Spirits starter, Jonathan Duran was able to get Brett Baker to fly out to close the inning.
The game remained quiet for a couple of innings before the Spirits offense went to work, adding a 5-run fourth inning to take a 6 to 1 advantage. Hunt reached on an error with one out to give the Spirits a base runner and Earl German followed with a single to make it two on with one out. David Tipton drew a base-on-balls to load the bags and a single by Duran scored Hunt to give the Spirits a one run lead. Lester Bedford followed with an RBI single, and McPherson and Lee both repeated with RBI singles to make it 5 to 1. Sopocy’s sacrifice fly was deep enough to score Bedford to make it 6 to 1, Spirits before Fischer flew out to end the inning.
The Reds followed with a rally in the bottom frame and did so with two outs after Duran was able to retire both Marlon Woods and Daniel Washington to start the bottom half of the fourth. Duran walked Hayes and Valles reached on a Spirits fielding error that allowed him to reach second and for Hayes to score. Roberts followed with a double to score Valles and moved to third on an errant throw by McPherson. He later scored on a single by Scott and Brett Baker kept the inning alive with a soft line drive to right field good for a single. Duran was able to get out of the inning after Chris Duty grounded to the infield and forced Scott out at third.
Despite a pair of base runners in the fifth, Coleman and the Reds were able to hold off any additional scoring after Coleman won the battle on strikes against Duran to get out of the inning. The Reds offense then made it a one run ball game after Coleman singled with one out and later stole second base. Woods flew out to record the second out but the Spirits relay wasn’t in time to stop him from advancing to third on the tag. The Spirits infield then absolutely forgot about Coleman at third and he took advantage of the opportunity with an old fashioned swipe of home to cut the lead down to 6 to 5. Duran step back and slowly went into his windup and Coleman timed it perfectly. He took off for home and yelled for Washington not to swing. Duran finished his windup and delivered to Bedford behind the dish and the pitch was far too late to get Coleman as he easily stole home. Washington was awarded first due to catcher’s interference but the Spirits were able to get out of the inning after Duran was able to get Hayes to ground out.
“We have no excuse for that play,” Lee mentioned after the game. “I believe our center fielder was the only one to yell, ‘runner.’ Sopocy was super deep in the infield, not close enough to hold him and honestly, Duran forgot about him and went into a slow windup. We need to pay closer attention to the game when guys like Coleman, guys with speed and great talent are aboard. We got sloppy.”
Lee’s frustration with his infield slowly dissipated in top half of the sixth after the Spirits offense rallied for another pair of runs to give the team breathing room. After Coleman took down Bedford on swings, McPherson followed with a single and stole second on the next pitch to Lee. Lee singled and moved McPherson to third and a walk to Sopocy loaded the bases. Fischer followed through with a clutch single to score McPherson and Lee followed him home after Hackney came through with another clutch RBI single. Coleman won another battle of strikes against Hunt and was able to get German to fly out to stop the rally.
With a 3 run lead an time running out on the league’s two hour game time limit, the defense settled in for what appeared to be the final frame. With memories of melting down from the last matchup against the Reds fresh in their heads, the Spirits all but seemed ready to let another game go. After Valles flew out for out number one, Roberts drew a walk off of Duran and Scott singled to put two on with one out. Baker flew out and a sigh of relief exhaled from the Spirits defenders but Duty kept the game interesting with an RBI single to score Roberts. Gary Jackson followed with an RBI single to score Scott and the Reds had the tying run at second base with their best hitter walking up to the plate. Duran delivered a strike for an 0-1 count and Coleman countered with a foul ball on the next pitch. Duran followed with a payoff that was called low but could have easily been called strike three, landing just around the knees and right over the dish. Bedford made his call to Duran and the duo again followed with a payoff to Coleman that started belt high and tailed straight across the left third of the plate and Coleman was called out looking to end the game.
“Great ending for us,” Lee continued. “Duran earned that. We were chirping about the previous pitch and a few others during the game and we didn’t feel he was getting certain calls. Par for the course. Someone out there is always going to whine about not getting the call. The umps here do a great job and more importantly, put up with our nonsense throughout the game, you know, because we’re all so incredibly talented and should be playing in the bigs. Regardless, Duran threw one hell of a pitch. Coleman seemed a bit off balance and it dropped in there beautifully. A no-doubter. I’m sure he’d want it back but for now, we get the win and we did it missing some of our top talent. Our games with the Reds have always been fun and they remain to be great contests. We’ll need to continue to keep taking them seriously each game.”
The Spirits return to action next Monday night when they square off against a visiting Hurricanes team starting at 6:30PM on Cowboy Field in Coppell. Fans can click here for schedule details or to download the iScore Central app to listen live.