(June 24, 2020 – Euless, TX) A week after what appeared to be the first time on the field for a number of players, the Spirits (40+) squad did an about-face and beat up on Rangers pitching Wednesday night on Legends Field at Texas Star in DFW ABA League play. The Spirits irrupted for 15 hits to race past the Rangers by a score of 14 to 3 before the game was called due to the league’s mercy rule.
The Spirits started off luke warm in the top half of the first inning after Stacy Scott singled with one down. Kirk Sipila flew out and Travis Hitzeman followed with a crushing double to score Scott and to give the Spirits a 1 to 0 lead. Shawn Lee followed with a single to push Hitzeman to third and then stole second base, but Dan Sosa grounded out to end the inning.
The Rangers started quickly but the quick start ended as fast as getting a runner to first on the first pitch of the game. Spirits starter, Earl German hit lead-off hitter Jeff Jones, but then promptly picked him off to get the first out of the inning. Ray Mullikin and Justin Harvath both flew out and the inning was over with a 1 to 0 Spirits edge.
A pair of singles by David Tipton and Bobby Kornhauser to start the second get hearts beating quickly for the Spirits offense in the second, but two follow up fielder’s choice plays squeezed advancing runners and the Spirits left the inning scoreless. After Kent Fischer started off the bottom half the second by reaching on a Spirits fielding error, Lance Metcalf sent him to second with a single after Rob Shollar flew out. Todd Brooks grounded out but both runners were able to advance to scoring position and the Rangers were able to get on the board after German struck out Jaime Esquivel, but the ball bounced past catcher John Hefner, allowing Esquivel to reach safely and also allowing Fischer to score. Two pitches later, Metcalf was able to cross the dish following another wild pitch from German and the Rangers had a 2 to 0 lead before leaving the inning.
The ghosts bounced back quickly in the top half of the third after Eric McPherson drew a lead off walk and then swiped second base. Scott lined out, but an RBI single from Sipila scored McPherson to tie the game. Sipila was able to reach second on an error by the Rangers left fielder and later took third on a wild pitch. Hitzeman drew a base-on-balls and Lee followed with an RBI single that scored Sipila. Sosa drew a walk to load the bases and Tipton followed by reaching on a fielder’s choice that squeezed Hitzeman at the plate. Kornhauser battled for a walk that scored Lee and another walk to Brant Finchum scored Sosa. Tipton scored two pitches later on a wild pitch before German grounded out to end the rally and the Spirits held a 6 to 2 lead heading into the bottom half of the inning.
The Spirits left the third unscathed and opened up for 4 more runs in the fourth after Metcalf replaced Jones at pitcher for the Rangers. Hefner drew a walk and after swiping second, he moved to third after John Holmquist grounded out to first. Hefner scored on a wild pitch to increase the Spirits lead and McPherson kept things rolling with a single to center field. Scott drew a walk after McPherson stole second and a triple to the wall from Sipila scored both runners to give the Spirits a 9 to 2 lead. Hitzeman followed with a single to score Sipila and Metcalf was able to get Lee to fly out and Sosa to ground out to end the inning.
The Rangers followed up by picking up a run in the bottom half of the inning after Fischer singled and was pushed to second on a sacrifice bunt from Shollar. Metcalf grounded out to push Fischer to third and he later scored on a single from Brooks to cut the score down to, 10 to 3.
It was all Spirits the rest of the way. Tipton led off the fifth by reaching on a Rangers error that allowed him to reach second on the overthrow to first. Kornhauser then singled to push Tipton to third. Kornhauser swiped second to put both runners in scoring position, but Finchum loaded the bases after he drew a walk that retired Metcalf as the Rangers pitcher. Fischer took his turn on the mound and was greeted by Tipton crossing the plate after the Rangers catcher mishandled the first pitch delivered from Fischer. Korhauser made his way to second on the wild pitch and one pitch later, Finchum took second to put both runners in scoring position. An RBI single from Hefner scored Kornhauser and a follow up RBI single from Holmquist scored Finchum. McPherson singled to load the bases again and Scott made it count with an RBI single to score Hefner. Enter a small amount a controversy as Sipila followed with a soft line drive toward the Rangers second baseman. As the Spirits coaches yelled, ‘back,’ each of the base runners took a step back toward their respective bases. The Rangers second baseman mishandled the ball, dropped it and then proceeded to step on second and throw to first. The field up allowed the play without calling a clear infield fly and the inning was over.
“Not really sure what the field ump was thinking on that one,” commented manager Kirk Sipila after the game. “We weren’t going to make a stink about it, but it was clearly an infield fly situation. Without it, players could do that all the time and put the offense in a defenseless position, hence the rule. But at that point we had control of the game so we just got back to defense.”
German was able to set the Rangers in order to end the fifth and the game was called due to the mercy rule. Sipila led the box score once again, with a pair of hits including a double and a triple, a pair of runs scored and 3 runs batted in. Hitzeman finished with 2 hits including a double and a walk along with a pair of RBIs, and Scott finished 2-for-3 on the night with 2 runs scored, a walk and an RBI. Brooks and Fischer led the box for the Rangers, each with a hit on the night with Brooks picking up the team’s lone run batted in and Fischer finishing with a pair of runs scored.
“Great night for baseball,” continued Sipila. “Great to see the bats come alive and a lot of players step up with some solid hitting. Great job by Earl (German) on the hill tonight as well. He goes the entire way allowing just one earned run while striking out 3. Solid combination of both offense and defense tonight.”
Each of the Spirits hit safely out of 12 except for 2, with 6 different players finishing the night with a 2 hits including McPherson, Scott, Sipila, Hitzeman, Lee and Kornhauser. The team will return to the diamond next Wednesday night as they visit the Fighting Chihuahuas on Legends Field at Texas Star starting at 8:45PM. Be sure to click on the schedule link to see how you can listen to the game live online!