(July 26, 2018 – Plano, TX) The Spirits (35+) squad returned to familiar ground Thursday night after defeating the Thunderbirds by a score of 7 to 5 at Graham Field. Kirk Sipila and Travis Hitzeman both recorded a pair of hits, with Sipila adding 2 doubles and Hitzeman adding a double as well to lead the offense. Brant Finchum, Shawn Lee and David Tipton also added key RBI singles in the game as the team moved to 10-3 on the season and sole possession of first place in the NTABL Veterans League standings.
The Spirits started quickly after lead off man, Cliff Brade was hit by a pitch to start the game. Jason Bottenfield was patient and drew a base-on-balls after Brade initially stole second. Both runners advanced on a double-steal and the squad was in business with two runners in scoring position with nobody out. The Spirits capitalized when Sipila picked up the first of his two doubles to score both runners and to give the Spirits a 2 to 0 lead. Hitzeman followed with his double on the evening to score Sipila and Hitzeman later advanced to third on a wild pitch after Finchum flew out. Lee broke through with an RBI single to score Hitzeman and went on to steal second base. John Showalter went down on swings and Patrick Bilgere kept the offense going by drawing a walk. Lee then stole third base and Bilgere second on another double-steal by the Spirits and Lee eventually scored on a wild pitch from Brad Bode before he was able to get Jonathan Duran to line out.
The score remained 5 to 0 until the bottom half of the second when the Thunderbirds finally broke through with a little help from the Spirits defense. Fabian Mendive doubled off of Bottenfield, who was pitching for the Spirits and Mendive would later move to third after a single by Justin Toone. In an unusual circumstance, Bottenfield then dropped the baseball while stepping into the rubber which was then ruled a balk. Mendive was given home and Toone second and the score was cut to, 5 to 1. Toone eventually scored when Jody Nicewonger doubled to cut the score to, 5 to 2, but Bottenfield was able to focus and get the next three birds to ground out.
The Thunderbirds turned to lefty, Brent Smerczynski to stop the bleeding and the Spirits then retaliated with a pair of runs in the top half of the third after Sipila led things off with his second double and was advanced to third on a single by Hitzeman. Finchum then followed with an RBI single. Smerczynski was able to get Lee on swings, but Showalter singled to keep the rally moving. A wild pitch allowed both Hitzeman and Finchum to advance and Hitzeman would later score on a fielding error by Bode to give the Spirits a 7 to 2 lead. Showalter went on to steal second before Smerczynski was able to set down Bilgere on swings. Chris Lewis drew a walk, but Smerczynski was able to get out of the inning after striking out Eric McPherson.
The score remained 7 to 2 until the bottom half of the fourth when the Thunderbirds saw Bode Wilson reach on a single. Brad Bode then reached on an error by Bilgere at second and Wilson would later reach third after Bode was squeezed at second, allowing Mendive to reach on a fielder’s choice. Toone followed with a sacrifice fly that was good to score Wilson and cut the lead to 7 to 3 before Bottenfield and his defense were able to get out of the inning.
With the same score heading into the bottom of the sixth and the league game clock running low on time, the Thunderbirds took to offense in the game’s final inning with a little left in the rally tank. Jeff Whanger drew a walk off of Bottenfield and Bottenfield recovered by striking out Brian Synatzske. Smerczynski singled to put two on with one out and Wilson drew a walk to load the bases and to make things interesting. Bode followed by lining out to right, but the sacrifice fly was good enough to score Whanger and to cut the lead to, 7 to 4. Mendive followed with a single to score Smerczynski and the Thunderbirds remained in business with two out, but Bottenfield was able to get Toone to fly out to end the game.
Bottenfield wend the distance for the Spirits, picking up the complete game victory. Bottenfield allowed 4 earned on 7 hits, while walking and striking out 2 and picked up his second victory on the season. Wilson and Mendive led the Thunderbirds, each with a pair of hits.
The team breaks for a weekend of all-star baseball as several players head to Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco for the NTABL’s All-Star Charity Games. Please consider a donation to the children of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital by clicking here and selecting any of the Dallas Spirits team listed as the team to sponsor. Every penny donated goes to the children with no middleman or extra fees. The team returns to regular season action next Thursday night as they host the Dodgers at a location yet to be determined. Click here for schedule details, to obtain driving directions, or to download the iScore Central app to watch and listen to the game live, online!
Waxahachie Autoplex Players of the Game