(October 18, 2016 – Dallas, TX) It was the season finale at Reverchon Park in Uptown Tuesday night, as the Spirits Fall squad came from behind to roll past the Braves completing the regular season with a perfect 10-0 mark.
Brant Finchum picked up the victory after Jonathan Duran faced some solid hitting from the Braves. Duran had to leave the game early following a hard grounder to the ankle. Each team finished with 10 hits, but it was a gigantic 4th inning by the Spirits which included a combination of timely hitting and Braves pitching frustrations that worked together for a deadly recipe of runs.
The Braves started the game quickly taking a 1 to 0 lead, however the Spirits countered with a run of their own. Cliff Brade led off the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second, and then scored on a deep double by Duran to left-center field. Mike Werner reached on an error and Shawn Lee flew out to left-center and scoring was cut off quickly when Finchum lined to the shortstop, where the Braves then easily doubled up Werner who had taken off from first.
Chris MacHatton was hit by a pitch to start the second and he advanced to third on a double by Ross Nussle. MacHatton scored on a wild pitch sending Nussle to third. He then scored on a Spirits error leaving one on and nobody out with the score now 3 to 1 Braves. Reed Dillard was squeezed at second on a fielder’s choice and near double-play, which left Cole Towery at first with one out. Towery stole second and later reached third on a ground out by Duante Rushton. Christofpher Roush walked and Sergio Aguirre was hit by a pitch to load the bases. It was Finchum who showed up defensively to play hero as he snagged a hard line drive to the hole which put an end to the Braves scoring rally.
“Not going to lie, we were a little nervous there. We’re not used to slow starts and if the old man (Finchum) doesn’t steal that line drive, we would have been in some trouble,” mentioned manager Shawn Lee after the game.
The Braves held the Spirits scoreless in the bottom half of the second and made things nerve-racking for the ghosts after rallying for another pair of runs in the top of the third. It would appear that cool heads prevail however, as the team came up to bat in the bottom of the third. Chad McCune replaced himself at starting pitcher with young gun, Chris MacHatton. MacHatton clearly appeared to be a spirited fellow, letting both teams and the plate umpire know he wasn’t fancying the calls of his pitches crossing over the dish. MacHatton continued to swing his glove as he caught the return throw nearly every pitch and took extra time walking around the mound.
“He was obviously frustrated,” continued Lee. “Not sure that helped him any and it certainly didn’t help his team. They seemed to have momentum until he started getting flustered. It was that point where the guys really relaxed at the plate and man, it paid off.”
Brade started off the third with a single and then stole second. Duran walked and Werner singled to load the bases with nobody out. Lee then grounded to third and the Braves made an attempt at Brade going home, but Brade’s speed was quick enough to score safely and bases remained loaded with nobody out. The Braves were able to catch a break however as Finchum was caught in a check swing that made contact and barely sent the ball to the pitcher. MacHatton make a great play and easily doubled up Lee at first, who appeared to think the ball was going to drop. It was Patrick Bilgere’s moment to play hero with two on and two out and he did just that as he laced a line-drive to left-center to score both Duran and Werner. Craig Molldrem then walked, but the Spirits rally ended as Dennis Gonzalez went down swinging. The come back, though small in stature seemed to swing the tide of momentum to the Spirits with a 5 to 4 score heading into the fourth.
Finchum then replaced Duran, who’s ankle had seen enough and the Spirits left the top half of the first giving up no runs and one hit. Then the flood gates of offense opened wide for the Spirits. The Spirits unleashed for 12 runs, batting for nearly 45 minutes in an inning that featured 7 walks by Braves pitching, a fielder’s chioce, and three doubles by the Spirits. The Spirits saw three Braves pitchers before the inning ended, leaving just minutes left for the Braves to rally based on the league’s two-hour time limit. The Braves were able to put up an additional two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but Finchum was able to set down the two final hitters and the Spirits walked away with a 16 to 7 victory and a perfect 10-0 Fall Season.
Along with Duran’s double, John Show had a monster night adding a pair of deeply hit doubles, 2 runs scored, and 3 RBI. Bilgere also finished with 3 RBI as did second Werner. Brade and Duran each scored 3 runs and David Tipton also added a pair of walks and runs scored.
“I’m proud of them,” continued Lee after the game as they gathered for a team photo. “It sounds cliche but it’s been a theme all season. They play together, they play hard, and they stay calm. Those are some pretty valuable assets to have alongside some really good talent. We’re happy to finish perfect, but none of that matters if you don’t finish the job in the playoffs. We look forward to the opportunity to complete this journey.”
The Spirits claim the number one seed in the NTABL Fall Ball Brazos Division playoffs and will see a bye in the first round of Sunday’s games. They will take on the lowest seed next Wednesday night at Graham Field located at Prestonwood Christian Academy. First pitch will be at 6:30 PM.
Waxahachie Autoplex Players of the Game