(August 21, 2017 – Plano, TX) It seems the Spirits (45+) roster was in a giving mood on Monday night after a total eclipse on the defensive side cost them game one in the NTABL Masters League end-of-season tournament at Graham Field. The club struggled mightily with 4 costly errors defensively that resulted in a 5-run seventh inning for the Cubs as they advance within the winner’s bracket by handing the ghosts an 8 to 4 loss.
After picking up 3 runs in the bottom half of the first, the Spirits offense went silent. The Cubs managed a run in the fourth inning and another pair of runs in the fifth to tie the game at 3 to 3. The score remained the same until the Spirits capitalized on a Cubs error when David Tipton started the inning with a single and a stolen base, and later made it to third when Shawn Lee reached on a dropped fly ball by the Cubs left fielder. Eric McPherson reached on another Cubs error, that scored Tipton and the Spirits led the game, 4 to 3. Enter one of several moments of officiating controversy after Kirk Sipila singled to load the bases. Patrick Bilgere hit a grounder toward the Cubs shortstop, which was relayed to second and followed up with by an errant throw to first. Both Lee and McPherson scored and it appeared the Spirits were cashing in with a now 6 to 3 lead. The home plate umpire made his way out to have a short discussion with the field umpire and the decision was to call out both Sipila, who had been squeezed at second as well as the hitter, Bilgere due to runner’s interference. The two runs were removed from the scoreboard and the inning was finished.
“I’m not going to sit and whine about the officiating,” commented Lee following the game. “I’m amazed that there was no call on Tipton needing to tackle a Cubs defender during a run down earlier in the game, but they’re willing to pull this one out of a hat? Regardless, that’s not why we lost. We handed this one over and all of my guys know it. Maybe it’s good for us. We’re looking forward to coming out with some fire next time.”
The controversial call being referred to by Lee stems from a play in the bottom half of the first inning when Brian Hackney singled to score both Lee and McPherson. Hackney received a courtesy runner in the form of Tipton and the Cubs pitcher made a pick-off move to him at first. Tipton was caught in a run down, which allowed Bilgere to score from third on the play. Tipton was called out after being tagged following a series of throws back and forth between first and second. The controversy stemmed from the Cubs second baseman who remained in the path of Tipton without the ball. As Tipton made his way back to first, he used his arm to push the second baseman out of the way as he attempted to dive for first and was tagged out by another Cubs defender. Tipton was looking for a defensive interference call, which would have allowed him safely back to first, but no call was made and Tipton was ruled out.
With a 4 to 3 lead moving into the top half of the seventh, the Spirits needed three outs to move to the next round. After Lester Bedford singled, Spirits pitcher, Earl German was able to strike out Rob Medel leaving one on with one out. Mark Coll then reached on a catcher’s interference call by the plate umpire and Marc Patterson followed by reaching on an error that appeared would be an easy game-ending double-play on a grounder hit to the Spirits infield. Dennis DeCapua followed by reaching on a double that appeared to be foul and both Bedford and Coll scored. Thomas Mohlner grounded out and the Spirits gave Jay Keeton a free pass to load the bases with the intentional walk. German got what he was looking for in the form of another ground ball, but fortune wasn’t in favor of the Spirits as Mark Hensley also reached on an error wihch scored Patterson. Ron Van Iderstine followed with a single to score both DeCapual and Keeton and it was all but over for the Spirits.
The 5-run inning left quite the cloud over the Spirits as the headed into the dugout. Hackney hit a hard single to start off the rally, but was quickly pinched when Dennis Gonzalez reached on a fielder’s choice. Brant Finchum followed by reaching on another fielder’s choice that squeezed Gonzalez, and with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Cubs were able to get German to fly out to seal the victory. The team returns to tournament play this Friday night as they host the Hurricanes in the loser’s bracket. The game will be played at Reverchon Park with an 8:45PM first pitch.
Waxahachie Autoplex Players of the Game