(June 21, 2023 – Euless, TX) It was the longest day of the year and the boys of summer weren’t enjoying the solstice as the longest day proved to be long indeed on the baseball diamond as well. Despite a couple of opportunities to make it a game or to make it a win, the Spirits (40+) squad failed to make plays happen unlike their opponent did on Wednesday night. The Fort Worth Drillers outlasted the Spirits and picked up an important 4 to 2 decision to make the final two games of the season essnetially playoff games for the Spirits as the regular season winds down.
The Spirits held control of their destiny in fourth place looking to solidify top four seeding to participate in the DFW-ABA 40 League playoffs that start in just a couple of weeks. The loss, however, puts them in a race with the Drillers and Mustangs as the three will battle to see who makes the top four versus the bottom four which essentially serves as the league’s B-Team for playoffs.
Spirits manager, Shawn Lee was less than excited following the contest. “We were flat tonight,” Lee mentioned. “(Jeremy) Wright pitched well and played even better defense, costing us at least on two occasions with diving plays that could have led to scoring. We didn’t really make any plays. We didn’t play poorly defensively, but we didn’t come up with anything to help us win; they did. No clue where our chemistry was either. We were quiet, seemed frustrated, and even had players arguing with one another. That’s just a terrible recipe for winning baseball. I said we needed to act like it was a playoff game and we absolutely didn’t play like it was.”
Missing one of their top hitters in the form of Travis Hitzeman and with Lee out still battling a shoulder injury, hits seemed few and far between. The Spirits finished with just 5 hits on the night, but they were able to draw 5 walks to keep the game somewhat in reach. Wright tossed 6 innings, allowing just one earned on 5 hits, while walking and striking out 5 to pick up the victory for the Drillers. Spirits starter, Ryan Marsland pitched 5 innings, allowing 3 earned on 8 hits while walking 2, and striking out 6 in the loss.
The Drillers picked up a pair of runs in the first inning after Scott Swingle singled and Michael Tedder was hit by a pitch. Christopher Allen singled to load the bases and a sacrifice fly by Nelson Alvarez scored Swingle to make it 1 to 0. A wild pitch moved both of the remaining runners into scoring position and three pitches later, Tedder scored on a passed ball before Wright was set down looking to end the inning.
The Spirits cut the lead down to 2 to 1 in the third after David Tipton drew a leadoff walk. Stacy Scott went down swinging and a single by Eric McPherson moved Tipton to second base. A fielder’s choice allowed Kirk Sipila to reach safely and Tipton to move to third after McPherson was forced at second. Marsland walked to load the bases and Chris Lewis reached on an error that allowed Tipton to score. Eric Goetz went down looking following a few questionable strike calls and the Drillers were out of the inning after just allowing the single run.
Three singles by the Drillers in the bottom of the third allowed for another pair of runs to cross following Wright’s single that scored two to make it 4 to 1, Drillers. Earl German singled with one out in the top half of the fourth and Shawn Hunt was hit by a pitch to make it two on with one out. Tipton lost a battle on strikes looking but an RBI double by Scott scored German to cut the lead down to 4 to 2 before McPherson grounded out to end the inning.
Marsland reached on a one out walk in the fifth and stole second base and it appeared the Spirits may earn another run, however Lewis flew out to center and Marsland tagged for some reason and the relay to third was in plenty of time to get him out and to cut the inning short. Mike Sopocy singled with one out in the sixth but the Spirits offense wasn’t able to find any ways to get past Wright and the Drillers defense as the 2-hour time limit finally ended the game with the Drillers on top.
“I’m disappointed,” Lee continued. “I hope my guys are too. It was hard to get a feel for anyone after the game as well. No pep talk, nothing. We’ll need to find some fun and some camaraderie if we’re going to want to win anymore games in that league. I hope we can turn a corner.”
The team will face a solid Rattlers team next Wednesday night in a game that will for all intents and purposes, serve as a playoff game for the Spirits. First pitch is slated for 8:45PM under the dismal lights of Arlington Field at Texas Star. Fans can click here for additional schedule details.