(June 15, 2018 – Dallas, TX) The Spirits (35+) hung on during a solid battle this past Thursday night and beat Dallas Modoc by a score of 9 to 8 in the second and final regular season match-up between the last year’s championship game squads. Modoc previously beat the Spirits, 1 to 0 back on April 26.
Pitchers, Jason Bottenfield and Jonathan Duran combined to be the winning formula, compounded by solid defense and timely hitting as the squads traded blows throughout the game. The Spirits jumped out early, scoring 3 runs in the top half of the first after Cliff Brade led things off with a double. He later scored after Bottenfield followed with a single. Kirk Sipila went down on swings and it was quickly 3 to 0 after Travis Hitzeman sent a fastball into the Jesuit College Preparatory parking lot off of Modoc starter, Mike Wheeler. Shawn Lee flew out, but Patrick Bilgere kept the inning alive momentarily by drawing a walk. He was left on base however, as Wheeler was able to get Brant Finchum to fly out as well.
What seemed to be a great start for the Spirits quickly turned into trailing in the game after Modoc put up 4 runs off of Bottenfield in the bottom half of the first. Jay Langston singled and later reached second after Hitzeman booted a ball at shortstop, allowing Chris Cec to reach safely. David Lovell followed with a double to score Langston and Cec later scored on a sacrifice fly from Matt Garrabrants. Steve Hahn drew a walk and later stole second after Alan Hall flew out, and both runners scored when James Gardner capitalized with a single.
The game remained quiet for the next few innings as both pitchers and teams settled defensively. Mike Cave replaced Wheeler in the top of the fourth and was able to set the Spirits in order. Modoc then took control of the game by picking up 3 additional runs in the bottom half of the fourth after Chris Clark singled and Cave drew a free pass. Both runners advanced on a Bottenfield wild pitch, and Clark was able to score on a sacrifice fly by Wheeler. Langston followed up with a single to score Cave and he later scored on a single by Lovell.
Down 7 to 3, the Spirits needed to make some noise and did so in the top half of the fifth inning. Finchum drew a lead off walk and advanced to second after John Showalter singled. Finchum later scored on a single by Eric McPherson that pushed Showalter to third. Duran followed with a base on balls and Modoc then turned to veteran pitcher, Steve Hahn to stop the bleeding. Brade welcomed Hahn with a single that was good enough to score Showalter and McPherson. Bottenfield then reached on an error by Cave in left field that allowed Duran to cross the plate, and Brade later scored on a sacrifice fly from Hitzeman to give the Spirits an 8 to 7 lead.
Lee then turned to Duran to close out the game for the Spirits. Duran had a solid outing in the first match-up between the clubs, however the Spirits offense wasn’t able to provide any runs to show support. Duran started hot, getting Hahn to ground out and later by striking out Alan Hall. Gradner was able to reach on a two-out error, but Duran was able to get Clark to ground out and preserve the Spirits lead.
The Spirits made it 9 to 7 in the sixth after Bilgere hit pay dirt with a triple that skipped past the Modoc right fielder. He was able to score on a sacrifice fly by Lewis and a two-out double by Showalter appeared the Spirits might score another run, but Hahn was able to get McPherson on a fly ball to end the insurance rally.
Modoc wasn’t ready to go down without a fight, however. With limited time remaining based on the league’s two hour time limit, Modoc headed into the bottom of the sixth knowing that this would be the game’s final shot at tying or winning. Cave led things off with a single, but Duran set Wheeler down on strikes to leave one on with one out. Langston was then able to reach on an error by Showalter at third and Cave later scored on a single by Cec to cut the lead, 9 to 8. With the speedy Langston at second, Modoc gambled and set both runners in motion with Lovell at the plate. Lovell laced a line drive that hung up a little into the left-center field gap. Lee was able to chase down the liner and quickly relayed to Bottenfield at second to get the force and double-play that sealed the victory for the Spirits. Langston and Lovell both finished with two hits apiece for Modoc.
“This was a great victory for us tonight,” commented Lee following the game. “The guys really hit the ball well, and we struggled again defensively with 5 errors, but didn’t let it be a decision in the game’s outcome. The guys kept their heads, their focus and played solid when we needed to. Great night of hitting for Brade, Hitz (Hitzeman), and a few of the other guys as well, and great job by Duran to keep Modoc’s hitters from rallying. No doubt, we’ll see these guys in the postseason.”
The Spirits return to action again next Thursday night as they’ll host the first place, Thunderbirds at Reverchon Park in Uptown, Dallas. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30PM and you can click here for schedule details, to obtain directions to the game, or to download the iScore Central app to watch and listen to the game live, online!