(September 5, 2019 – Mesquite, TX) Another long drive and another long night for the Spirits (35+) as the ghosts fell in their round one playoff game to the Dodgers on Thursday night. Despite grabbing a 3 to 2 lead in the second, the nagging and obvious repetitiveness of a big inning hit the Spirits like a Mack truck in the fifth inning and the Dodgers broke a 3 to 3 tie to cruise to an 8 to 3 victory.
The loss sends the Spirits to the NTABL Veterans League playoffs losers bracket, where they will have to fight back in any event that they wish to challenge for a trophy. The Dodgers struck first for a pair of runs off of Spirits starter, Kirk Sipila after Lance Broadway singled with two outs. Nick Bird was able to reach on an error after hitting a medium pop-up to the short outfield between right field and second base. Jason Bottenfield hovered back and right fielder, Jonathan Duran charged in and the two failed to communicate and the ball dropped safely. Because they failed to pick up the baseball quickly, Broadway was able to complete his race around the bags to score the Dodgers first run, little-league style. Wes Kirby and Kevin Simmons followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases and a walk to Jason Hodgson gave the Dodgers an early, 2 to 0 lead.
The Spirits then rallied for 3 runs in the top half of the second after Eric McPherson reached on a one-out single. Shawn Lee singled to push McPherson to second and a single by Patrick Bilgere loaded the bases for the Spirits. David Tipton made it four hits in a row with an RBI single that scored McPherson and after Chris Lewis went down swinging, Duran came up big with a hard line drive to right to score Lee and Bilgere. The inning may have continued, but Tipton was caught sleeping as he moved around second base and after the run down and a poor call after his head first slide to third, he was out and the inning was over.
Things remained quiet as Sipila and his defense played well until the bottom of the third when Broadway reached on a Spirits fielding error and later scored on a single by Bird. Tied 3 to 3 and heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Spirits then turned to Bottenfield to carry the team the rest of the way. Bottenfield struggled with control and walked the first two hitters he faced. Nathan Rejcek then squared to bunt and dropped a beauty toward second base and just past Bottenfield on the mound. Bottenfield made a sliding dash for the ball, but all runners were safe. Unfortunately for the Spirits, he hurt his hamstring on the play and was forced to leave the game. With nobody available to fill Bottenfield’s shoes, the Spirits had to look back at Sipila to return to the mound and unfortunately, the starter was just out of gas. Sipila walked Broadway to score Patrick Richer and a triple by Bird during the next at-bat cleared the bases for the Dodgers. Bird later scored on a single by Simmons and it was all over less the crying for the Spirits as the headed into the game’s final inning due to time constraints.
Both Sipila and Craig Molldrem singled after two outs, but the writing was on the wall as the team trailed by 5 runs before Travis Hitzeman grounded out to end the game.
“We lost a tough one tonight,” commented Lee after the game. “I felt like things were going to go our way when we looked to Bottenfield. Then he hurt is leg and we had to go back to Sip (Sipila) after he did a terrific job the entire game. We appreciate his effort, but man, we can’t always rely on him to carry us. Someone else needs to step up. Next season we’ll have some pitching if it’s the last thing I do. We definitely need to make some changes. I realize it’s not over, but the teams ahead of us just have enough guys to get it done. You can’t win this game unless you have arms. Ours are good, we just don’t have enough of them.”
The team will now sit and wait until next Monday night when they’ll travel to McInnish Park to face the 3-seeded Thunderbirds. A loss will end the team’s season. Click here to see schedule details.