(September 7, 2023 – Coppell, TX) With the Summer season now in the rearview mirror, the Spirits (Fall 42+) squad opened up play in the NTABL Fall Brazos Division action on Thursday night against the Knights. Fresh off a recent playoff match-up, the Spirits faced a new and improved version of the Knights, who added several solid players to their roster for the Fall league.
The Spirits turned to trusty veteran, Jonathan Duran and Duran held is own over 4 and a third innings, allowing just 2 earned off of 4 hits, while walking 5, and striking out 2. Mike Sopocy helped close the game, slowing down the Knights offense some by allowing just a hit with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts to pick up the save as the Spirits went on to win the game by a score of 6 to 4.
The Knights struck first, picking up a run in the bottom half of the first inning after Javier Rodriguez reached on a dropped third strike by Lester Bedford behind the dish for the ghosts. Duran struck out Kevin Simmons but Nick Bird kept the inning alive after reaching on a Spirits fielding error. The error proved costly as it normally does for the Spirits, as Matthew Lawley singled home Rodriguez to give the Knights an early 1 to 0 lead before Duran was able to get Todd Murrah to pop-out and Rodger Battani to ground out to close the inning.
The Spirits quickly tied the game in the second inning after Sopocy singled and moved to third on a single by Brian Hackney. Chris Lewis struck out but a sacrifice fly by Bedford allowed Sopocy to score and tie the game before Duran grounded out to end the Spirits offensive frame.
Duran and the Spirits were able to get out of a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the inning and the score remained tied at 1 to 1 until the top half of the third inning when the Spirits offense rallied for 4 runs. Eric McPherson led off the inning with a single and Jason Bottenfield doubled off the wall to score him. Shawn Lee followed with a double to the gap that allowed Bottenfield to score, and after moving to third on a wild pitch, Lee later scored on an RBI single by Kent Fischer. Sopocy reached on a Knights error and Hackney grounded out but moved both runners over safely. An RBI sacrifice fly by Lewis scored Fischer before Bedford grounded out to end the inning for the ghosts.
The Knights answered with a pair of runs in the bottom frame after Rodriguez reached on another Spirits fielding error. Simmons flew out and Rodriguez later stole second base. Bird drew a walk and a single by Lawley scored Rodriguez. Murrah reached on a fielder’s choice that allowed Bird to score and Duran was able to get Battani to ground out again to end the inning with the Spirits up 5 to 3.
This remained quiet until the fifth inning when Lee led off with a single and advanced to second after Fischer followed with another single. Sopocy flew out but Lee was able to take third on the play. Fischer was picked at first base and two pitches later, Lee was able to score on a wild pitch before Hackney lost a battle of strikes.
With a 6 to 3 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, the Knights answered with another run after Cuauhtemoc Zubillaga singled. He was replaced at first by Michael Miller following a fielder’s choice, and the Knights then made it two on with one out after Duran walked Scott McCain. Lee turned to Sopocy to give the Knights a different look and Sopocy was able to get Rodriguez to pop-out to the infield. Simmons then reached on another dropped third strike that should have been out number two, and with the bases loaded, Sopocy lost a battle of pitches to Bird and walked him, allowing Miller to score before Sopocy struck out a hot-hitting Lawley with the bags packed to get out of the inning.
“We were on the edge of our seats a little there,” Lee mentioned after the game. “We weren’t thrilled by some of the calls being made at the plate. He was consistent through. He was giving both teams’ pitcher the opposite batters box, but then every now and again he wouldn’t call it. I think this really confused Duran but Sopocy seemed to understand and make the best of it the way he pitches. He’s sneaky fast and he’s incredibly creative with his pitching. That’s a huge advantage for us, but missed calls at the plate and then lazy missed calls in the field can prove to be a poisonous situation. We get it, sometimes they make the wrong calls but tonight we saw them just being lazy. That’s unacceptable. Thankfully, Mike was able to pitch around the nonsense.”
Holding a 6 to 4 lead, the Spirits went in order in the sixth and needed the defense to pick up a victory. Sopocy did his part by striking out Murrah to start the sixth and then getting Battani to fly out, but a walk to Michael Kubick and a bloop single by Shawn Hunt gave the Knights hope. Sopocy was then able to get Stacy Scott to ground out to closeout the game and to get the victory due to the league’s two-hour time limit rule.
McPherson, Lee, and Fischer helped carry the Spirits offense, each finishing with 2 hits on the night. McPherson scored once, Lee scored twice, doubled, stole a base, and added an RBI, and Fischer added both a run scored and a run batted in. Lawley led the Knights with 2 hits and 2 runs batted in, and Hunt added 2 hits as well.
The Spirits return to action on Sunday when they face the Hurricanes on Cowboy Field at the CISD Baseball Complex. Fans can click here for schedule details or for instructions on downloading and using the iScore Central app to watch the game live online.