(March 6, 2019 – Grapevine, TX) Remnants of the cold were still in place as the Spirits (40+) was back in action this past Wednesday night as they hosted the Renegades in DFW ABA baseball play. As the team prepped in it’s final action before the MSBL Las Vegas Kickoff Classic this coming weekend, there were several sources of heat that kept the team nice and warm despite the cool breeze blowing off of Lake Grapevine at Oak Grove Park.
Duane Aponte made his first pitching appearance for the squad and Aponte, one year removed from his 2017 NTABL Pitcher of the Year award wasted no time taking control of the game. Aponte would go on to pick up the victory against the Renegades and he did so with an exclamation point at the end of just 4 innings of work. He would go on to finish the night with 9 strikeouts out of 12 possible outs, giving up 4 hits and walking none. Brant Finchum completed the night of solid Spirits pitching by closing out the fifth and final inning by striking out 2 after giving up a double.
“Quite the difference when your pitchers can feel their hands,” commented Spirits club manger, Shawn Lee following the victory. “Last week’s 19 degree ‘real feel’ didn’t do either team a bit of good, but we can only control our own dugout. These temperatures still stink, but this felt like a heat wave after that last game. Aponte was lights out for us tonight. He took control of the game immediately and set the tone for our offense. The defense played well and despite leaving 9 on base, which is way too many for a short game like that, but we did capitalize on a few key swings to get a victory tonight. A good way to finish before we head to Vegas.”
Outside of a single by Steven Needlemen in the first, Aponte went on to strike out the rest of the side to start the game off. Jon Hefner drew a walk after David Tipton was called out on a strike that skipped across the Earth’s atmosphere and Hefner was thrown out trying to take second base on a count that went full to Kirk Sipila. Renegades starter, Bobby Tollin was able to get Sipila to swing at one on the dirt and after the first, it seemed the teams may be headed for a pitcher’s duel.
The Renegades picked up a lead off single to start the second inning and the base runner would advance to second after Spirits first baseman, Chris Lewis made a nice play to snare a hard roller and record the out at first. Aponte was able to get McDuff to fly out and closed out the inning by striking out Rolando Ramirez. In the bottom half of the inning, the Spirits found some offense after Tollin struck out Patrick Bilgere. Lee made his way to the dish with one out and battled a 7-pitch at-bat with 3 foul balls before beating out a roller to the left side to score an infield hit. Before Tollin made his next pitch, Lee was awarded second on a balk call and later advanced to third on a wild pitch. Stacy Scott then drew a base-on-balls and stole second to give the Spirits two runners in scoring position and Lewis loaded the bases with another walk from Tollin. Eric McPherson made it 3 straight walks with an RBI walk to score Lee and the Spirits were up 1 to 0. Jack Nash followed up with a hard single to right field that scored Scott and a blunder by the Renegades right fielder allowed all three runners to score while Nash scampered his way to third. Finchum and Brian Hackney also drew walks to load the bases, but the Spirits failed to capitalize further as Tipton popped up to the infield and Hefner went down swinging to close out the inning. After two complete innings of play, the Spirits led, 4 to 0.
Aponte remained hot in the third, recording two more strikeouts as the Renegades went down, 1-2-3. The Spirits then added 2 more runs in the third after Javier Lerma replaced Tollin on the mound. Sipila drew a lead off walk and would advance both bases on wild pitches before Bilgere also drew a walk. Bilgere swiped second and Lee was able to load the bases after appearing to beat out another infield single that was ruled an error. Scott followed with a hard roller to first and thinking he was an easy out, didn’t run. The Renegades first baseman relayed to home to get the force on Sipila and the catcher returned the throw to first to easily get Scott for the double-play. Lewis then wore the next pitch from Lerma to reload the bases and Bilgere made it 5 to 0 after scoring on a wild pitch. McPherson drew another walk to load the bases and Lee later scored after Nash walked to make it, 6 to 0 Spirits before Finchum flew out to end the inning.
Aponte picked up strikeouts 7, 8 and 9 in the fourth despite giving up a pair of singles and the Spirits opened up the game in the bottom half of the inning after both Hackney and Tipton drew walks off of the Renegades third pitcher on the night. Hefer was out on an infield fly call, but Sipila followed up on the evening’s biggest hit to score both runners after he doubled to the wall in center. Bilgere followed with a single and Lee drew a walk to once again load the bases for the Spirits. Scott then drew an RBI walk and Lewis made it three free passes in a row to score Bilgere and the Spirits were up, 10 to 0. Mike Scott then became the Renegades fourth pitcher on the night and he was able to get McPherson to pop-up and Nash to ground out to stop the bleeding.
Finchum picked up the final inning of work and after Munoz led things off with a double, he was able to get Kelly to ground out and struck out the next two hitters to end the game due to the league’s run-rule. In a final look at the box score, the Spirits finished the night with just 4 hits, but their patience at the plate proved to be too much as Renegades pitching combined for 15 walks. Sipila’s double and two RBIs alongside Nash’s single and pair of RBIs were tops in the Spirits stat book.
The team returns to league play next Wednesday night as they visit the Brewers at Oak Grove Park, Field H. Click here for schedule details and be sure to follow the Spirits in action at the MSBL Las Vegas Kickoff Classic this coming weekend. Click here to listen to the games live, online using the iScore Central app!