(April 22, 2019 – Carrollton, TX) It was a great night for baseball Monday night as the Spirits (35+) squad and the Dallas Cardinals were able to find themselves a barn-burner before the night was over at McInnish Park in Carrollton.
Happy to be playing, the Spirits ventured on their second game of the early NTABL season, while the Cardinals were taking part in their very first of the season. The Spirits turned to crafty, Duane Aponte to take on the big bats of the Cardinals, while the Cardinals went with seasoned veteran, Troy Key. Neither pitcher disappointed as both teams were able to scatter hits, score runs as both teams tossed and took punches along the way.
Aponte was able to get the Cardinals to go down in order to start the top half of the first and the Spirits came out swinging in the bottom half of the inning. Lead off man, Cliff Brade started off with a single and was able to swipe second. He advanced to third when Key attempted a pick off at second and threw to an empty base. Brant Finchum followed with an RBI single to score Brade and the Spirits led, 1 to 0. Kirk Sipila made it 3 straight singles and the Spirits remained in business when Finchum took third on a wild pitch. Travis Hitzeman then dug in for battle and after 11 pitches and 4 foul balls, he drew a walk to load the bags. Shawn Lee dug in for a great scoring opportunity but his moon shot on the first pitch from Key saw him out before leaving the batter’s box due to the infield fly rule. Fortunately, Aponte was able to find a hole on the right side that scored both Finchum and Sipila to give the Spirits a 3 to 0 lead. Earl German went down swinging and Key was able to get Eric McPherson to fly out.
Dustin Harrison doubled to start the second and Joseph Angelone drew a walk. Mark Tierney flew out to give the Cardinals their first out in the second, but a single by Mark Carrassco loaded the bases. Juan Mollinedo reached on a fielder’s choice that was good to score Harrison and the Cardinals were on the board. Aponte was able to eventually get Key to fly out with the bases loaded and the Spirits went on to add to their lead after Sipila, Hitzeman and Lee all singled, with Lee sending Sipila home to pick up the run batted in. Aponte followed with his second hit of the game and German followed by reaching on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Hitzeman at the plate. With Lee and Aponte still aboard, Key was once again able to get McPherson to fly out to end the inning, but the Spirits held a 4 to 1 advantage over 2018’s second place squad.
Things fell apart a bit for Aponte and the Spirits defense in the top half of the fourth. Harrison and Angelone both singled and Tierney made it three straight with an infield single to load the bases. Aponte lost Carrasco at the plate and walked in Harrison from third. Mollinedo then flew out to record the first out, but Angelone later scored on a ball that got passed Finchum at the plate. Grant Fithan flew out, but Aponte lost control of a change up allowed Tierney was to score on the wild pitch. Aponte was able to gather and to strike out Rusty Holmes, but the game was tied at, 4 to 4.
The Spirits went in order during the bottom half of the inning and the Cardinals took the lead after Joe Lowry was hit by a pitch and later stole second. A single by Kevin Fought was good to score Lowry and Aponte and the Spirits defense were able to waiver any additional runs despite a single by Jerry Gamez and Angelone reaching on a Spirits fielding error. The Spirits were held scoreless in the latter half of the inning and the Cardinals again capitalized on the scoring drought by the ghosts after Mollinedo reached on another Spirits fielding error. Fithan followed up with a single to push Mollinedo to third and he later scored on a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Cards a 6 to 4 lead.
Aponte’s third single on the night led the bottom half of the sixth off with promise, but German flew out to record the first out of the inning and McPherson grounded into a 6-4-3 double-play to kill the inning. A one out double by Lowry in the seventh appeared to be the beginning of the end, but Aponte was able to get Fought to ground out to record the second out of the inning. A single by Gamez allowed Lowry to score however, and the Cardinals left the top half of the seventh with a 7 to 4 lead.
Here’s where the game gets interesting. Jonathan Duran started off with a lead off single and a solid at-bat by David Tipton gave the Spirits two on with nobody out after Tipton was able to draw the walk. The Cardinals then turned to Harrison to close the game and upon battling Brade after 5 pitches, Brade was able to reach after slapping a slow roller to Harrison. Harrison fielded the ball and then short-handed his throw to third and all runners were safe. Duran was then able to score on a wild pitch delivered from Harrison and after the other runners each advanced a base, Finchum grounded out and the runners were both held up. Tipton was then able to score on another wild pitch from Harrison and the lead was cut to, 7 to 6. Sipila eventually drew a walk and the Cardinals chose to intentionally walk Hitzeman to get to Lee with a force at any bag. Lee took a solid cut at Harrison’s first pitch and fouled it off, but then delivered a chopping ball between short and third on the next pitch. The Cardinals third baseman was able to snow-cone the ball and flip it to second, but Lee was able to beat out the double-play attempt and the game was tied, 7 to 7 after Brade crossed the plate. This gave Aponte the cliche, two-out, bottom of the seventh scenario with a chance to play hero, but it wasn’t in the cards as Aponte grounded up the middle and Gamez was able to handle the ball and to force Lee out at second to end the game.
“Great effort tonight to make this a game,” commented Lee following the tie ball game. “Nobody likes a tie, but I’m looking at the positive here. The guys didn’t give up and to battle and come back that way should be something we use as momentum moving forward. I wish I could have come through there with a hit at the end as I’m sure my teammates do, but as I said, we’ll look at this in a positive light and power forward. Great job by Sipila and Aponte at the dish tonight. Each of them 3-for-3 I believe. Hate to give up that lead, but the Cardinals are a great team. Good to know we can hang with the upper-echelon of this league. We’ll get better, no doubt.”
The tie gives the Spirits a record of 0-1-1 in the early season and they’ll have an opportunity to get into the win column next Monday night as they play host to the Royals at First Baptist Academy. The first pitch is scheduled for 9:00PM and you can click here to reveal schedule details or directions to the game. Following the game on the 29th, the Spirits expect to return to Thursday nights as field availability opens up in the metroplex.