(September 20, 2017 – Plano, TX) It appeared that the Dallas Spirits (Brazos) squad needed a little push to get going this past Wednesday night as the team mustered a comeback after falling behind, 4 to 0 to the Hurricanes at Graham Field. The Canes sent out their Spirits voodoo in the form of pitcher, Bob Delahunt and Delahunt delivered by holding the ghosts to just a single run in the first two innings of play.
The Hurricanes started quickly out of the gate after Brad Petty battled a 7-pitch strikeout against Spirits pitcher, Jason Bottenfield. Bottenfield hadn’t seen action since last year’s playoff debacle against the Brewers, when the game ended on Bottenfield striking out a hitter in what should have taken the game to extra innings. Instead, the 12-6 curveball that caught the hitter swinging, hit the turf and got passed catcher, Brant Finchum and the Brewers walked off with a runner on third crossing the plate to end the game. Although his speed was there, his command of his pitches struggled in the early-going against the Hurricanes and they took advantage. Mason Gann followed with an 8-pitch single and Terry Helm’s lean-back swing toward a Bottenfield pitch struck the glove of Finchum allowing Helm to reach on catcher’s interference. Justin Toone drew a 5-pitch walk to load the bases and Sean Judge followed with a 7-pitch walk good for an RBI and a 1 to 0, Hurricanes lead.
“I felt kind of bad for him,” Spirits manager, Shawn Lee later eluded to when reflecting upon Bottenfield’s first inning of work. “We let him know we needed him to pitch prior to the game, but he unfortunately didn’t really get an opportunity to work out prior to the game and I feel like I forced his hand a bit, pun intended. Fortunately, he’s a talented player and he was able to battle back and take control later in the game.”
That control didn’t come soon enough for the hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, although he was able to take down Jose Guevara via strikeout after another 5-pitch at-bat. With two down and the bases still loaded, Kirk Pruitt also battled and drew a 5-pitch walk to score Gann. Thomas Mohlner followed with a single on the first pitch he saw from Bottenfield to score Toone and the Hurricanes had a 3 to 0 lead and concerns in the Spirits dugout rose quickly after Bottenfield completed a 47-pitch first inning. The green storm made it 4 to 0 in the in the top half of the second after Delahunt shut down Spirits hitters, despite David Tipton reaching on a fielding error and a base on balls earned by Lee in the bottom half of the first. Petty led off the Hurricanes portion of the inning with a 5-pitch walk and Gann followed with a single to put two on with nobody out. Helm drew a 5-pitch walk to load the bases and Toone grounded out on a slow chopper to Lee, who’s only play was to first to record the out. Petty was able to score on the throw and the Hurricanes were up four runs. Bottenfield settled a bit and was able to close the inning on a pair of strikeouts to both Judge and Guevara.
The Spirits offense broke the ice in the bottom half of the second when Finchum started the inning with a single and then stole second base. Chris Lewis flew out and before Dennis Gonzalez drew a walk, Finchum scampered to third for his second steal of the inning. The throw on the play at third made its way to the left field line and Finchum was able to score. David Delk flew out for out number two in the inning and a double by Jack Nash pushed Gonzalez to third and the Spirits appeared poised to score, however Delahunt was able to get John Holmquist to ground out to kill the rally.
Down 4 to 1, Bottenfield made quick work of the Hurricanes in the third after getting Pruitt to ground out and following up with a pair of strikeouts to Mohlner and Delahunt. It was in the bottom of the third that the Spirits found offensive pay dirt starting with Tipton leading off the inning with a single. Bottenfield followed with a single and Kirk Sipila drew a walk to load the bases. Lee settled in and drove the second pitch he saw from Delahunt to right-center field good for an RBI single and the bases were still loaded with nobody out. Guy Koenig then reached on an error by Helm at shortstop and both Bottenfield and Sipila were able to score to tie the game at 4 to 4. Finchum followed with another RBI single to score Lee and Koenig followed on the journey to the plate after an RBI double by Lewis. The Hurricanes turned to pitcher, Sean Judge and the bleeding didn’t stop as Finchum scored on a wild pitch and Gonzalez drew a base on balls. Delk flew out to record the first out of the inning and Nash drew another base on balls to load the bases for Holmquist. Holmquist also drew a walk, but not before Lewis made his way to the plate on another wild pitch from Judge. Tipton drew another free pass, but the Spirits saw one of their meal tickets gunned down after Judge hit the turf with yet another pitch. Gonzalez scampered his way home from third, but the Hurricanes catcher was able to recover the ball and relay the throw to Judge covering at home and they were able to tag Gonzalez out. Bottenfield followed with an RBI single to score Nash and both Holmquist and Tipton scored after Sipila belted a double down the left field line to give the Spirits an 11 to 4 lead.
Despite a single by Gann in the fourth, Bottenfield went on to pick up a pair of strikeouts and then retired the side with three more strikeouts in the fifth to earn his first victory of the 2017 fall season. Outside of his early struggles, Bottenfield went on to strike out 11 Hurricanes hitters on his way to victory. The game was shortened due to the league’s 2-hour time limit.
“It was ugly a few times for us today, but we’ll take the victory,” continued Lee following the game. “We checked in on Bott (Bottenfield) several times over the game to make sure he was good with the number of pitches and I think the stats speak for themselves through those five innings. He really settled and starting getting control of his pitches. Our offense finally came alive and the game turned out in our favor. We’ll learn from it and move onto the next.”
Lee’s club takes the field on Sunday morning as they host the Dallas Bulls at Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas. First pitch is scheduled 11:00AM.