Spirits (40+) Defensive Collapse Leads to Tie with Mustangs

(May 1, 2024 – Euless, TX) What started off as a nice 5 to 0 lead for the Spirits (40+) squad later turned into a perpetual faceplant as the team’s defense fell apart, collecting 7 errors in the field that allowed for a 4-run Mustangs fifth inning in a game that eventually ended in an 8 to 8 tie. Due to the league’s two hour time limit, ties are possible during regular season league play in the DFW-ABA 40 League.

Eric McPherson, Todd Murrah, and Stacy Scott each finished with a pair of hits, but starting pitcher Jonathan Duran led all hitters, finishing 3-for-3 in the night with 2 runs scored and a run batted in.

“Jonny (Jonathan Duran) tried to carry us tonight,” team skipper, Shawn Lee mentioned after the game. “He deserved a win tonight. But for whatever reason, we decided to kick it around again. I mean, what team wins with 7 errors? It’s not that any of us are mad at one person. I just don’t understand how we turn a molehill into a mountain. We don’t just get through an inning with one error. It’s like most of us try to get involved with making a mistake. I’m saying this with a laugh but it’s frustrating when it happens. A lot of games like this, we really do it to ourselves.”

The inning Lee describes is affectionately referred to as a “Spirits inning” as the players typically put it. When a combination of errors and other factors such as key hits or calls by umpires can change a game, and quickly. That’s exactly what happened to the ghosts in the fifth inning when the team held a 7 to 3 edge.

The Spirits jumped out to an early 2 to 0 lead in the first after Cliff Brade drew a walk to start off the game. Brade moved to second after McPherson reached on an error and both runners advanced when Kent Fischer grounded out. Shawn Hunt went down looking but a walk to Mike Sopocy kept the inning alive. Brade was able to score on a wild pitch and McPherson eventually scored on a wild pitch before Lee grounded out to end the frame.

The Spirits made it 5 to 0 in the second after Murrah led off with a single and David Tipton drew a walk. Stacy Scott flew out but a single by Duran loaded the bases. Murrah was able to score on another wild pitch and after Cody Grimes went down swinging, Brade singled home Tipton to make it 4 to 0. McPherson followed with a single to score Duran but Brade was tagged out trying to score from second to bring the top half of the inning to a close.

The Mustangs then rallied for an unearned run after Ryan Benkert reached on an error by Sopocy at third. Tom Kerkaert and Ron Lindsey both singled back-to-back to allow Benkert to score. Kerkaert was thrown out by Brade in left field when he tried to score and Duran was able to get Christofer Pritcher to fly out to end the inning with a 5 to 1 lead.

The Mustangs picked up their second run in the third after Jeremy Greene drew a leadoff walk. Duran was able to get both Kenneth Nelson and Kaly Vansickle to fly out but a single by Ryan Plesco, who finished the night, 4-for-4, kept the inning alive for the horses. Detrek Terrell was then able to reach on an error that allowed him to make his way all the way to third with Greene scoring in front of him after Fischer attempted a circus throw to Murrah at second base. Duran was able to get Scott Baxley to ground out to stave off any additional scoring, but the Spirits would holster those errors for the following innings.

In the fourth, with the Spirits offense on hold, the Mustangs rallied for another run to cut the lead to, 5 to 3 after Duran hit Benkert with a pitch to start the inning. Kerkaert struck out looking and Lindsey was able to reach on another Spirit error before Pritchett singled home Benkert. Duran was able to strike out Greene and got Nelson to fly out to again refrain from any additional bleeding.

The Spirits then rebounded with a pair of runs in the fifth, looking like they may get over the hump after Scott and Duran led off with back-to-back singles. Both Grimes and Brade struck out and what started quickly seemed to be ending quickly, but an RBI single by McPherson scored Scott and after Fischer later walked to load the bases, Hunt was hit by a pitch to score Duran before Sopocy grounded out with the bags full.

Enter the non-coveted “Spirits inning.” The Mustangs started off the inning with three straight singled by Vansickle, Plesco, and Terrell. Lee then turned to Scott to fill in for Duran to give the Mustangs a different look. An error by Tipton in center field allowed Baxley to reach safely on the next play and allowed for Plesco to score. The Spirits were able to pick Terrell at third but Benkert reached on a dropped third strike that allowed Baxley to score when the ball sailed to right field. Lindsey singled home Benkert and Scott was able to get Pritchett to ground out with the game now tied, 7 to 7.

Lee then started the sixth with a single and after faltering on a huge jump to steal second on the first pitch to Murrah, Lee attempted a steal of second on the next pitch. Murrah promptly made contact with said pitch that hit Lee in the foot on his way to second, making the ball dead and allowing Murrah first base after lee was ruled out. Tipton followed with a single and Scott followed with another single to load the bases before Duran made it five in a row with an RBI single to score Murrah. Grimes went down swinging for the third time and Brade grounded out but the Spirits held a one run lead heading into the bottom of the sixth with no time left on the league’s two-hour time limit for games.

“I though we might sneak out with a win,”Lee mentioned afterwards, reflecting on his team’s 8 to 7 lead heading into the final frame. “We had made plenty of mistakes but I figured we would be able to hold them off. I think Mike (Sopocy) was itching to come in and close the game and looking back, it may have been a good idea. I have total faith in Stacy (Scott), but Mike seems to excel in those moments. It’s a damned if you do or damned if you don’t situation. I’ve seen it backfire in the past as well.”

Scott was able to get Greene to fly out to record the first out but Nelson followed with a single and then stole second base and the writing almost seemed on the wall as butt cheeks started to squeeze for the Spirits. Scott was able to get Vansickle to strike out looking and the ghosts were just one out away from sneaking away with a victory before Plesco’s fourth hit on the night allowed for the speedy Nelson to score from second to tie the game. Scott was able to get Terrell to ground out and the teams walked away with an 8 to 8 tie.

“Felt like a loss considering how we played,” Lee continued. “They celebrated and we walked away with our heads down. That about defines why it felt like a loss. We all bail, jump into our cars and we don’t even meet for post-game suds anymore. I’m frustrated. This team doesn’t feel like it used to. It’s not about losing or a tie, it’s about are you having fun. Right now, I’m not. But winning always seems to change that so I’ll keep the faith. Duran was great tonight. He deserved a W and we took it from him but we’ll be ready for the next one.”

The Spirits will have the opportunity to get back into the win column when they visit the Bisons as the season turns past the halfway point. First pitch is scheduled for 8:45PM on Legends Field at Texas Star, and fans can click here for schedule details or information on how to listen live through the iScore Central app.

Game Box Score

Central Roofing and Restoration Players of the Game

Jonathan Duran (3-3, 2 R, RBI; 4 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, BB, 2 K)

Eric McPherson (2-3, R, 2 RBI, SB)

Cliff Brade (1-3, BB, R, RBI, SB)