(March 2, 2022 – Euless, TX) MLB may be in a lockout and the weather may not officially feel like Spring just yet, but the boys of summer surrounding the areas of Dallas/Fort Worth were ready to play baseball Wednesday night. The Spirits (40+) squad took to the friendly confines of Arlington Field at Texas Star and hosted Los Viejos to kickoff the DFW-ABA 40+ League season.
Nearly the entire roster was present for game one, and the ghosts turned to hard-throwing, Craig Molldrem to get the season underway. After Molldrem set the Viejos in order with a pair of strikeouts in the first half of the inning, the Spirits offense got busy and rallied for a 3 run lead to close out the first inning of play. Eric McPherson lined out but Kirk Sipila drew a walk and the Spirits had their first runner aboard. Travis Hitzeman reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Sipila at second but Shawn Lee kept the inning alive with a single to put two on with two out. Newcomer, Don Massoud crushed a double that allowed both Hitzeman and Lee to score, and the Spirits held a 2 to 0 advantage. Eric Goetz followed with a single to score Massoud, and later moved to third after Molldrem singled. Viejos starter, Kent Fischer was then able to get Will Nash to ground out to end the inning.
Los Viejos showed offensive signs of life in the second after Fischer drew a base-on-balls, swiped second, and then watched teammate, Chris Duty draw a walk. A passed ball allowed both runners to advance, and a single by Randall Dick made the best of the free passes to first by scoring Fischer. Molldrem then struck out Scott Bergset, and another ball past the Spirits catcher allowed for Duty to score and Dick to advance to second. Molldrem was able to strikeout the next two Viejos hitters, but the game was now back in reach with the Spirits holding a 3 to 2 lead.
Los Viejos then turned to veteran pitcher, Gary Jackson in the bottom of the second to see if there was a way to slow the Spirits offense. Aaron Wilson greeted him with a double down the left field line. David Tipton followed with a line shot to center field, but it was corralled by the Viejos center fielder to record the first out. A walk to Brant Finchum put two on with one out, but Jackson was able to get both Stacy Scott and Shawn Hunt to fly out to end the inning.
In the top half of the third, Los Viejos tied the game after Duane Aponte relieved Molldrem on the hill. Aponte started the inning by striking out Rob Shollar, and Kevin McKenna followed up with a line drive out, and it appeared the Spirits would leave unscathed. But back-to-back-to-back singles by Jackson, Daniel Washington, and Fischer allowed for the tying run to cross before Aponte was able to set down Duty on a ground out.
The Spirits made some noise in the latter half of the inning after Sipila singled with one out. Hitzeman flew out to record the second out, but Lee kept the inning rolling after drawing a walk. Massoud was then able to reach on an error to load the bases but Jackson was able to get Goetz to ground out to stave off another scoring opportunity for the ghosts for a second straight inning.
Los Viejos then fought for a one run lead in the top half of the fourth after Dick singled and was later forced out at second after Bergset reached on a fielder’s choice. Alex Wells flew out, and an RBI single by James Johann scored Bergset to give Los Viejos a 4 to 3 lead before Aponte was able to get Steven Nutt to ground out.
The Spirits found some spark in the bottom half of the inning after Molldrem and Nash drew back-to-back walks. Both runners advanced on a passed ball and a pitch later, Molldrem was able to cross the dish following an error by Johann. Wilson went down on swings, but Tipton was able to draw a walk as well and the Spirits had two runners aboard with one out. Finchum then reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Tipton at second, but Nash was able to move to third. With the game tied at 4, Jackson for some reason decided to make a pick-off move to Finchum at first after getting ahead of Scott, 0-1. The pickoff attempt went low and away from the Viejos first baseman and Nash was able to score easily to break the tie. Finchum moved to second on the play and Scott followed with a single to push him to third. Hunt then followed with an RBI single to score Finchum, and the Spirits were ahead 6 to 4 before Bobby Kornhauser went down swinging.
In the fifth, Aponte stuck out Shollar to record the first out but McKenna singled to put a runner aboard. With an 0-2 count to Jackson, McKenna took off on the next pitch. Hunt caught the pitch that saw Jackson go down swinging, and then relayed the throw to Sipila at second base to cut down McKenna and to kill the rally attempt with a non-traditional double-play.
The Spirits then opened the game up by adding 3 runs in the bottom of the fifth after Aponte led things off with a single. He was then forced at second after McPherson reached on a fielder’s choice. Sipila was then hit by a pitch and Hitzeman followed by reaching on another fielder’s choice that put out McPherson at third. With two down, Lee singled to record his second hit on the night and loaded the bases for Massoud. Massoud answered with a single to score both Sipila and Hitzeman, and another single by Goetz scored Lee to give the Spirits a 9 to 4 lead before Molldrem grounded out to end the inning.
With minutes on the league game clock, the umpires allowed for Los Viejos to return to the dish for another shot at it. Washington started things with a walk and was later put out at second after Fischer reached on a fielder’s choice. Duty then forced out Fischer on another fielder’s choice, but a single by Dick and a double by Bergset scored both Duty and Dick and gave Los Viejos some hope. Wells kept things alive by drawing a walk, but a ground out by Johann ended the inning and the game.
“Solid effort by both squads tonight,” mentioned Lee after the game. “I’m sure there’s plenty of rust to go around but for the most part, both teams played well and we’re happy to walk away with a win. This game could have gone either way. It was nice to fire up (Craig) Molldrem, and to see (Duane) Aponte looking good and putting in some extended work. Donny (Massoud) swung a great bat tonight as did (Eric) Goetz, so it felt like we were clicking some even though we had a long lineup and a lot of mouths to feed tonight. Good to see our guys get after it.”
The team returns to action in the form of the next Wednesday night when they play host to the Fort Worth Drillers at 6:30PM on Arlington Field. Click here for schedule details, and be sure to download the iScore Central app to watch Spirits baseball online!
MacArthur 121 Tire & Service Players of the Game