(August 8, 2022 – Plano, TX) Just a week removed from a night that was no less than anemic at the dish, the Spirits (45+) somehow found ways to score despite only gathering another 4 hits in back to back games. There may need to be a conversation about the growing concern over lack of hitting, however the squad seemed to make the best out of each and every opportunity where runners reached base.
Kirk Sipila and Lester Bedford both doubled on the night, while Chris Allen and Shawn Lee picked up the Spirits only two other hits on the night. The lack of hitting may seem skewed however, as the team drew a season-high 9 free passes to first base during the game.
Thunderbirds starter, Jim Crombie struggled to find the strike zone and patient Spirits hitters made it hurt after drawing 8 walks off of him, and later adding a ninth walk from reliever, James Hardt.
John Holmquist went the distance for the Spirits, delivering six innings of work that included one unearned run against just 3 hits on the night. Holmquist walked just one and struck out 3 hitters to pick up the complete-game playoff victory.
Allen was hit by a pitch to start off the offense for the Spirits, and he was later joined on base by Eric McPherson, who drew a walk. Sipila made it three straight with a free pass to first. Lee plated the first run after reaching on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Sipila at second, and the Spirits had a quick 1 to 0 lead. Lee quickly stole the empty base but the offense was stalled after Crombie won the battle on strikes against Mike Sopocy. McPherson scored two pitches later on a wild pitch and the 2 to 0 would have to hold after Brian Hackney flew out to end the inning.
The Thunderbirds cut the lead to 2 to 1 in the second after Marc Coll reached on a leadoff walk. Harvey Carlisle singled to put two on with nobody out. Pablo Dominguez then grounded out, but both runners were able to move over, and a play later, Coll scored on a chopper behind he mound that resulted in an error by Lee, who charged the ball and made an errant throw to Hackney. The Spirits were able get Thomas Mohlner to ground into a double-play, fielded and relayed nicely by Sopocy at third, through Sipila at second, and over to Hackney to get the 5-4-3 twister to end the inning.
From that point forward, it was all Spirits. The ghosts picked up another 3 runs in th the second after Will Nash walked with one out. Nash was able to move to second on a passed ball and was later joined on the bags after David Tipton was hit by a Crombie pitch. A double by Bedford scored both runners and a follow up RBI single by Allen scored Bedford. McPherson went down on swings before Allen swiped second base, but Sipila flew out to end the inning with the Spirits up, 5 to 1.
The team added 3 more runs in the third after Sopocy reached on an error with one out. Sopocy swiped second and then moved to third on a wild pitch before Hackney drew a walk. Hackney swiped second to put both runners in scoring position, and Sopocy later scored on a wild pitch that also allowed Hackney to advance to third. Chris Lewis drew a walk and two pitches later, Hackney was able to score for free on another Thunderbirds wild pitch. Lewis was able to take both second and third on the play, and later scored when Nash grounded out to give the Spirits an 8 to 1 lead.
The Spirits picked up another pair of runs in the fourth after Allen reached on a one out walk. McPherson flew out, but Allen was able to advance on another wild pitch and then eventually scored after Sipila doubled. Lee singled to move Sipila to third, and Sipila later scored on, you guessed it, a wild pitch to complete the scoring for the Spirits. Lee went on to swipe third and was joined at second base by Sopocy who had previously drew a walk. With the bases loaded, it appeared the Spirits may get the walk-off mercy rule win, but Crombie was able to get Lewis to fly out to end the inning.
Things remained quiet through the sixth and the Spirits were able to close out the win and advance in the NTABL Masters League double-elimination tournament. The Spirits will play host to the Reds next Monday night after the Reds outscored the Hurricanes by a score of 9 to 7. Game time is slated for 6:30PM at Graham Field and you can click here for schedule details.