Spirits (35+) Hold Off Brewers Rally

(June 1, 2017 – Dallas, TX) The Dallas Spirits (35+) squad was able to put together enough offense Thursday night to get past a rallying Brewers team at Jesuit College Preparatory. The up and coming rivalry forming between the two teams has featured two solid come back attempts by the Brewers despite early leads by the Spirits in both contests thus far in 2017.

The Brewers capitalized on six different Spirits fielding errors, including two by team skipper and normally starting left fielder, Shawn Lee. Craig Molldrem started off the Spirits first inning by setting down Brian Synatszke and Bodie Wilson with strikeouts. Stephen Gundrum then slapped a hard line drive to Lee, playing in right field. Lee charged the ball quickly and appeared poised to make the throw to first for the out, but overran the hop which allowed Gundrum to advance third. On the very next play, Fernando Barba followed with a soft liner to right, which Lee appeared poised to catch. However, Lee again overran the ball which allowed Gundrum to score easily. Molldrem was able to catch Brent Smerczynski looking to end the inning with the club down 1 to 0.

“I don’t have a lot of excuses for those two plays,” commented Lee following the game. “I made a hot-shot play on the first one thinking I could throw him out at first and just missed the hop. On the second one, it seemed I had a chance to get under it and make the catch but it fell short. It would be easy to blame the Sun on them both, but I won’t. Fortunately Craig was there to bail us out and our offense was clicking tonight.”

The Spirits offense did in fact click and immediately in the bottom half of the first. Cliff Brade started the hitting off with a single¬†and advanced to third on another single by Jason Bottenfield. Bottenfield was squeezed at second when Kirk Sipila reached on a fielder’s choice, but the action was good enough to score Brade. Lee followed up with a bit of redemption by doubling down the left field line and with runners on second and third, Chris Lewis was then hit by pitch. Molldrem then drove a fly ball to center field, which was deep enough to score Sipila and after Lee stole third and Lewis took second, Wilson was able to get Earl German on strikes to end the Spirits rally.

After Molldrem and company shut down the Brewers in the top half of the second, the Spirits offense opened things up. John Showalter struck out to start the inning, but Patrick Bilgere singled and Brant Finchum, returning from a hamstring injury was able to draw a free pass. Jonathan Duran went down on swings and it appeared the Brewers would get out of the inning. Bilgere and Finchum moved over on a wild pitch and Will Nash was able to reach on an error after being down 1-2 on a count against Wilson. Nash grounded to third and Brewers third baseman, Jason Hodgson made a bad throw to first which allowed Nash to reach safely and allowed both Bilgere and Finchum to score. After Nash made his way to second on the blunder, Aaron Wilson, who replaced Lee in right field singled up the middle to score Nash. Brade then followed with another single as did Bottenfield. Bottonfield’s hit was good enough to score Wilson and the merry-go-round continued with two outs as Sipila was also hit by pitch. Brade later scored on a wild pitch to Lee, and Lee drew a base on balls to load the bases for Lewis. Wilson appeared ready to get out of the inning as he got an early lead against Lewis at 1-2, but followed with another wild pitch that scored Bottenfield. Lewis eventually grounded out, however the damage was done and the Spirits were cruising 8 to 1.

Molldrem appeared to be rolling against Brewers hitters, but the ghosts ran into some trouble in the top half of the fifth inning. Molldrem began the inning by striking out Steve Ramirez for his 10th strikeout in 5 innings. The Spirits defense then followed with three consecutive errors, starting with Synatszke reaching on a throwing error by Showalter. Synatszke then took second on a wild pitch from Molldrem and then scored after Wilson reached on an error by Lewis at first base. Gundrum drew a walk after being down in the count, 0-2, and Barba then reached on another error by Lewis. With bases loaded, Molldrem again got ahead of the next hitter, Smerczynski, 0-2, but Smerczynski battled and drew another free pass to score Wilson. Hodgson the singled on the first pitch he saw to score Gundrum and Molldrem regained his poise to obtain his 11th and final strikeout, with Mark Adams being the victim. Despite the punch out, the Spirits now saw their lead cut to 8 to 4.

“We got a little sloppy there in the fifth,” continued Lee. “Credit to the Brewers for getting some wood on the ball, but the hits were slow and we seemed to have trouble getting after the rollers in the infield to help Craig out. The Brewers are solid, and they’re hungry. We don’t take them lightly at all. In fact, they were responsible for our early exit last year and they’ve only gotten better. But our team is solid. We like being tested and I think the guys rose to the challenge to close out the game.”

Closing out the game didn’t come as easily as the Spirits would have preferred. Following the fifth inning rally, the Brewers were¬†able to shut down Wilson, Brade, and Bottenfield, 1-2-3 to end the fifth. Lee went to his bullpen in the sixth and called on German to close out the game’s final two innings, but the Brewers continued to make some noise before the game ended. Ramirez started off the sixth with walk and advanced to third after Synatzske singled. Wilson also walked to load the bases, and Ramirez later scored after Gundrum reached on a fielder’s choice. With the score 8 to 5 and 2 runners on with 2 outs, German was able to get both Barba and Smerczynski to fly out. Wilson again set the Spirits down in order in the seventh, but German remained solid in the game’s final half inning to get Hodgson, Jody Nicewonger, and Ramirez to ground out despite a free pass to Adams with two outs. The defensive shut down sealed the game for the Spirits and the 8 to 5 final keeps the team in first place with a record of 8-1 atop the NTABL Veterans League Standings.

The Spirits visit the Astros at Reverchon Park next Thursday night with the first pitch slated for 6:30PM.

Game Box Score

Waxahachie Autoplex Players of the Game

Jason Bottenfield (2-3, R, RBI)

Cliff Brade (2-3, 2 R, SB)

Craig Molldrem (5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 11 K, 2 BB) (1-1, 2B, RBI)