(April 27, 2022 – Euless, TX) It was a battle for first and second place Wednesday night as the Spirits (40+) squad engaged against the undefeated Red Sox in DFW ABA 40 League action. The Spirits knew they had a test ahead of them as they were facing a team with a handful of former MLB and Independent League products on the roster alongside a team that had scored 90 runs and given up 9.
The end result turned out to be a 2 to 2 tie before the teams battled out an extra inning of play as Spirits starter, Duane Aponte was solid in 8 innings of work, keeping the Sox off balance with a great mix of pitches and a solid defense behind him. Aponte pitched the entire game, delivering 8 innings and allowing just 2 earned off of 5 hits while walking one, and striking out 5.
“Duane looked great tonight,” injured and in COVID protocol team manager, Shawn Lee noted after the game. “He and Shawn (Hunt) seemed to be connecting well with pitch choices, including a solid mix of changing the eye level on a number of pitches and then hitting a few corners. Hell of a job by Duane tonight.”
Aponte delivered his work for 4 innings in traditional fashion before an unusual decision by the plate umpire to leave the game to instead work in getting an issue with his keys locked in his car resolved rather than focusing on the job he was being paid for. As a consequence, both teams then faced a field umpire calling balls and strikes form behind the pitcher’s mound.
“Honestly, my blood pressure got a little high,” continued Lee. “You’ve got the top two teams in the league battling it out and you’re going to first, step off the field in the middle of an at-bat to use the restroom and then just walk out on the game? We were fortunate though. The field ump did an impressive job calling the rest of the game without issue. He may have missed a corner or two, but I thought he was great. It certainly helped ease the pain of the negligence from the other guy. Life happens, but come on man. You’re paid to do a job. Have some respect for the 30 guys here paying to play baseball.”
Eric McPherson continued to scorch the scorebooks with his hitting, adding another pair of hits in three appearances, while stealing one bag, drawing a walk, and scoring once. Eric Goetz also singled and stole a bag, while Bobby Kornhauser picked a double and a run batted in on the night. Hunt was the only other player to hit safely, while Earl German and David Tipton both reached on walks.
The Spirits picked up a 1 to 0 lead in the bottom of the first inning after McPherson led off with a walk and move to second when Kirk Sipila grounded out. A single by Goetz moved McPherson to third and Goetz went on to steal second. McPherson then scored after Will Nash reached on a fielder’s choice that cost the team after Goetz split for third base on a ball hit to the Sox shortstop. The shortstop fielded the ball and easily made the throw to third to tag Goetz out. Nash was able to move to second on the throw, but Kornhauser grounded out and the inning was over.
Justin Hatcher picked up a single for the Red Sox in the second, but Aponte and his defense were once again able to get off the field unscathed as a strikeout and a pair of solid plays by the defense kept the Sox shutout moving into the bottom of the second. The Spirits appeared to be in a great scoring opportunity after Tipton drew a leadoff walk. Aponte flew out but a walk to German and a single by Hunt loaded the bases with one out. Sox starter Billy McDaniel seemed to seize the opportunity for himself setting down both Stacy Scott and Jonathan Duran on back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the inning.
The Sox rallied for a pair of runs in the third to take a 2 to 1 lead after Chad Cain walked. Doug Poe grounded out and a double to deep center by McDaniel plated Cain. Aponte was able to set down Jason Garza on swings, but a single by Todd Myers scored McDaniel to give the Sox the lead. Aponte was able to get Darren Oliver to fly out to end the inning.
The game remained quiet as the pitchers duel continued. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Sox turned to former San Diego Padres bullpen catcher, Hatcher to pitch. The hard-throwing right hander was greeted with a double from Kornhauser on his first pitch and the Spirits were once again in business with a runner in scoring position and nobody out. Hatcher recovered and was able to get Tipton to ground out and Aponte to fly out and with Kornhauser now on third, it appeared the Spirits may squander opportunity. But German was able to reach on a fielding error by the Sox second baseman and Kornhauser was able to cross the dish to tie the game, 2 to 2 before Hunt grounded out to end the inning.
For the remainder of the game and including the extra frame, the teams went back and forth with runners getting aboard but finding themselves unable to score. The game went on to end in 2 to 2 tie.
“Well, certainly not looking at it as a loss,” Lee continued. “I know, flare for the obvious there. But we kept toe to toe with a really good baseball team. We’re proud of that. I’m disappointed that we blew a couple of opportunities, but you have to hand it to them. Solid pitching, solid play. They’re a formidable opponent and we’re just happy to be in the conversation. Looking forward to battling them again.”
The team will return to action on May 4th when they play host to Los Viejos, a team they beat earlier in the season by a score of 9 to 6. First pitch is slated for 6:30PM on Legends Field at Texas Star. Click here for schedule details and don’t forget to download the iScore Central app to listen to games live online.