(September 14, 2022 – Euless, TX)
It was a great night for baseball in Euless on Wednesday night, with Texas temperatures finally dipping below 80 degrees. The Spirits fall squad, alongside their opponent, the Killer Bees settled in for a long night of baseball as the teams squared off in a doubleheader in DFW-ABA 40 Fall League action.
In game one, the Spirits went to trusty veteran and crafty right-hander Jonathan Duran to pitch. Duran was solid, holding the Bees to just a pair of runs off of 7 hits while walking 3 and striking out 2. The Spirits offense seemed to be in good shape but ran into an issue of stranding runners on base throughout the game. In what lead to an 8 to 2 lead heading into the fifth inning of play, the ghosts stranded 10 runners on base before the game was through.
Defensively, the team did a great job of forcing the Bees to strand runners as well. After it was all said and done, the Bees also left 9 runners on base in what really could have turned into a slugfest for both teams.
Scoring opportunity was missed in the first inning for the Spirits after Kirk Sipila singled with one out and was joined on base by Travis Hitzeman, who reached on a Bees throwing error. Eric Goetz flew out to record the second out, but Mike Sopocy drew a 9-pitch walk to load the bags for Earl German. German, who had been hot at the dish for about a season and a half lost the battle on strikes to Bees pitcher, Alex Benitez, and just like that the Spirits had 3 left on base displaying in the box score.
The Bees then rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning after Luis Jaime reached on a one-out single. Michael Scott and Steve Trocchio both followed with singles, with Trocchio sending Jaime to the dish. Kramer grounded out to push both runners over on a nice play to get the out made by Sopocy at third base, but Sammy Vives kept the Bees inning alive by drawing a walk off of Duran. Benitez followed with an RBI single to score Scott, but the Spirits were able to get out of the inning after the relay throw home caught Trocchio at the plate as he was tagged out for out number three.
The Spirits rallied to cut the lead to, 2 to 1 after Shawn Hunt tripled to the right centerfield gap. Hunt would prove to be a valuable asset on offense in both games before it was all said and done. David Tipton went down on strikes and Stacy Scott grounded out, and it appeared the Spirits my squander opportunity, but Chris Lewis kept the inning alive by drawing a walk and then stealing second base. Cliff Brade, who returns to the Spirits after over a year away was hit by a pitch and the bags were loaded and ready. Hunt was able to score on a wild pitch to Eric McPherson, who followed with a line shot to the gap that appeared would score two easily. The Bees outfield had other plans however, snaring the shot and closing the inning to secure 5 runners left on base for the Spirits.
Fast forward to the top half of the fourth inning, where the Spirits offense gets a little work done. German led things off with a walk and moved to second after Hunt picked up his second hit on the night. Benitez struck out Tipton to record the first out but Scott was able to draw a walk to again load the bags for the Spirits. Lewis followed with an RBI single tha scored German, and after Brade reached on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Scott at third, Hunt was able to cross the dish to add another Spirits run. A balk by Benitez allowed both runners to move over a bag and McPherson made it hurt by smoking a triple to the right centerfield gap to score both Lewis and Brade before Sipila flew out deep to end the inning.
With a 5 to 2 lead heading into the bottom half of the fourth, Duran picked his moments to help the Spirits get out of a jam. Vives grounded out to second but Benitez followed with a single and eventually stole second base. Duran struck out Pinson to get the second out but a pair of walks brought tensity to the Spirits defense in a game that seemed like it was going to continue a back and forth. Duran was able to strike out Herrera to get out of the inning and the Spirits preserved their 3 run lead.
The team then rallied for another pair of runs in the fifth after Hitzeman led things off with a single. Hitzeman stole second base and later moved to third after Duran singled. Hitzeman was then able to score on an error by the Bees catcher that allowed Duran to move all the way to third. The Bees then turned to Pinson to pitch and Pinson was able to get German to ground out, but Duran kept the scoring alive after crossing the dish on an RBI single by Sopocy. With the Spirits now up 7 to 2, Hunt picked up his third hit of the game and was later squeezed at second after Tipton reached on a fielder’s choice that put Sopocy on third. Tipton stole second base and Scott was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A walk to Lewis gave him an easy RBI as Sopocy scored, and the Bees again made another pitching change, this time going with Mike Scott. Scott was able to get Brade to fly out to end the inning, but the Spirits held an 8 to 2 lead with the league’s two-hour time limit coming into play.
To mix things up for the Bee hitters, Spirits co-manager, Shawn Lee turned to Sopocy to close things up for Duran. Lee, who is out for the season due to a shoulder injury, looked to give the Bees a different look to closeout the game. However, that mix seemed to favor Bees hitters as they seemed to find the ball with Sopocy and the Spirits defense was suddenly unable to make plays.
Mike Milsap reached on a Spirits error and Jeffrey Smith then singled to start off the inning for the Bees. A walk to Charles Carr loaded them, and moments later Milsap scored when Jaime grounded out. Scott grounded out as well but Smith was able to score and a wild pitch to Trocchio allowed Carr to cross the dish to make it 8 to 5. Trocchio followed with a triple to the right centerfield gap and another triple by Kramer scored Trocchio. With the tying run at the plate, Lee made a visit to the mound to discuss things with Sopocy and company as what appeared to be an easy win was quickly turning into a complete fold. Cooler heads prevailed however as Sopocy was able to get Vives to fly out to end the inning and to closeout the victory for the Spirits.
“Felt like this one was a little shaky,” Lee mentioned after the game. “All credit to the Bees for a nice comeback there at the end, but we need to be able to finish games. Duran pitched a good game and I don’t think it’s a big ask to say, ‘you did a great job, let’s let another guy close this out.’ We have a tendency to lean on our pitchers for an entire game and that doesn’t seem like a great formula to me. You second guess your decisions and then the next time you end up leaving your starter in way too long. It’s hard to find that perfect recipe without a true closer. We definitely need to define that role at some point for this team. Good win, we’ll take it. Just not how you want to end a game.”