(November 15, 2022 – Euless, TX) The same type of play that continues to haunt the Dallas Spirits once ahead displayed its ugly head on Tuesday night as the Spirits fall squad dropped the semifinal game to TBD to watch their season faceplant to an unexpected halt.
The team relied on 4 errors, free passes to first base, and passed balls to hand one over to the combined squad of Rattlers and Drillers and watched as the team celebrated to advance to the DFW-ABA Fall League Championship.
The Spirits without their ace, Craig Molldrem, turned to another ace in the form of Duane Aponte to help get them to the big game where they were likely to face #SheGone, a team consisting of former MLB and Minor League players. The move turned fatal as the squad lost to TBD by a score of 6 to 3 to end the 2022 season altogether.
“It’s a tough decision to make,” team captain, Shawn Lee commented after the game. “Craig and I discussed our options and we decided to rely on our other arms to get us to the championship. We knew it was a gamble, but we also knew getting there and watching #SheGone hit rocket after rocket wasn’t an option either. Nothing against our pitchers, their team is just that good. We had to play after two straight byes and a format that favored teams that were participating in other tournaments out of town. Rather than forcing lower seeds to play on off nights and in back to back games, the league decided on this format which was better for some and not for others. As the number one seed, we feel this screwed us. We sat 3 weeks idle before playing baseball and of course, we came in rusty and we had to change our strategy. I won’t defend this format. I thought it was ridiculous however, we relied heavily on one player to win games this year. That’s not championship baseball. If we can’t win without Craig on the mound, well, we don’t deserve to win.”
Lee’s squad outhit TBD by a margin of 8 to 4, however the team was unable to string together hits when it mattered. Veteran TBD starter, Steve Stone went the distance and despite allowing 8 hits and walking 3, the Spirits were unable to get the appropriate combination of offense together to pull away. Aponte pitched 4 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 3 hits, striking out 3 and walking 4. Mike Sopocy closed out the final two innings before the game was called due to the league’s 2 hour time limit, and he finished allowing no earned runs off of a single hit, walked one and struck out 3.
TBD picked up a 1 to 0 lead in the second after Aaron Lowe walked and the moved to third on a single by Art Vargas. Lowe eventually scored on a wild pitch. The Spirits tied the game in the bottom of the second after David Tipton drew a leadoff walk. He was replaced by Sopocy after Sopocy reached on a fielder’s choice, and a follow up single by Aponte moved Sopocy to second. Shawn Hunt grounded out but both runners were able to advance before Sopocy eventually scored on a passed ball. Stacy Scott went down on swings, stranding Aponte at third.
The Spirits made it 3 to 1 in the third after Cliff Brade singled and moved to second after Eric McPherson grounded out. Will Nash singled home Brade and follow up singles by Eric Goetz and Tipton allowed Nash to score before Sopocy flew out and Aponte grounded out to end the inning. Unfortunately for the Spirits, that was the last of their scoring.
The Spirits handed over the lead in the fourth after Marc Boggio doubled with one out. Lowe drew a walk but Aponte was able to strike out Vargas for out number two. A walk to Stone loaded the bags and one wild pitch later, Boggio cut the lead to one run after crossing the dish to make it, 3 to 2. Lowe then scored after Jonathan Duran couldn’t handle a ground ball to third. The error kept the inning alive and Stone later scored on another fielding error by the Spirits infield before Aponte eventually was able to get Jeff Peck to ground out.
The Spirits tried to stay in the game but the offense sputtered and the defense allowed another pair of unearned runs to cross for TBD in the sixth after Sopocy had come in to relieve Aponte. Sopocy had an 0-2 count on Vargas and then struck him with a pitch. Stone flew out but Phil Varrachio and Luis Ambriz both reached on Spirits fielding errors, allowing Vargas to score. Varrachio later scored on a fielder’s choice that could have been a double-play, but the Spirits were unable to turn the easy ground ball fast enough.
Aponte singled in the game’s final frame to lead things off, but that quick sign of hope quickly turned back into stomach knots as Hunt lined out and Aponte was picked at first after leaning off the bag. Scott then grounded out to end the game and TBD was off to the championship.
“It’s tough to find the silver lining. I really don’t have one,” Lee continued. “It’s hard being injured and not being able to be a part of it. I can’t do anything but be a cheerleader, but sadly some of my guys didn’t seem to care. I don’t know if it was 3 weeks off, the cold, or maybe everyone was just sick of baseball. That wasn’t our best effort. I’m disappointed, mostly for them. I wanted it for them. I don’t give a (expletive) about myself. But I also dislike when that empathy isn’t returned. I’ll get over it but we blew an opportunity here. That’s tough to walk away with.”
The Spirits would like to thank everyone who paid an ounce of attention to old man baseball. We appreciate those who cared enough to read stories, donate to the team, watch games either in person or online. We’d like to send out a special thank you to all of our ladies who support us in playing the game we love. Our ladies are truly the best.
To everyone else – thank you for the games, camaraderie, and fun. Look out for next year. We’re rebuilding and you best be ready to play us in 2023!