Tipton’s Walk-Off Lifts Spirits (45+) Over Hurricanes

Mason Gann

(June 27, 2022 – Plano, TX) It was an evening with mixed emotions for both the Spirits (45+) squad and the Hurricanes as they took to Graham Field for another session of baseball featuring friendly foes. The teams met for a moment of silence before tipping off to honor one of their fallen comrades, Mason Gann. Gann, a member of the Hurricanes, was in a serious car accident following a game in May. He spent the previous 6 weeks in a medically-induced coma due to a severe head injury, and as family, friends, and teammates waited and prayed for him during his journey, the teams felt it important to provide Mason and his family with a moment of reflection and hope.

As it would turn out, just minutes after the honoring him and after the game started, Hurricanes skipper and friend to Gann, Kirk Pruitt was notified that Gann had passed peacefully with his family at his bedside.

“We were all hoping there was a way Mason would find a way back to us,” Spirits manager, Shawn Lee commented. “We had gotten the game started and were feeling good about sharing a moment for him and Kirk (Pruitt) called me over after the top of the second inning. I ran over and he showed me the text from Mason’s wife that he had left us for God’s side. Choked both of us up pretty good. But we also felt really good that we were thinking about him at the time it occurred. Playing at Prestonwood Christian Academy with the church and the cross in view gave us all some comfort as we wished Mason and his family peace. A lot of hugs and chatter about Mason even though we were going toe to toe with one another. Losing someone is never fun. Mason will be missed. I enjoyed my time playing with him as a teammate and also as an opponent and I’m sure his friends and teammates on the Hurricanes will miss him as well. As I told Kirk, we get to play baseball. It may sound silly, but each day is not promised. We need to enjoy this opportunity every time we’re out here and we need to hold those close to us, closer.”

Members of the Dallas Spirits and the Hurricanes take a moment before the start of their game to honor Mason Gann. Gann, who was in a terrible car accident in May passed away peacefully surrounded by his family just minutes after this moment was captured.

After a scoreless first inning, the Hurricanes jumped on the Spirits and their defense. Jack Nash singled and Eric Reifschneider drew a walk off of Spirits starter, John Holmquist. Dave Wylie reached on a Spirits fielding error to load the bags and a single by Chad McCune scored Nash to make it 1 to 0, Hurricanes. Rene Villalobos followed with a single to score Reifschneider, and another run scored after Sean Judge reached on an error by Lee at shortstop. Holmquist was able to strike out Joe Bockemehl but McCune cross the plate after Michael Madsen reached on a fielder’s choice when the Spirits attempted to spin two. Madsen swiped second base and Brad Petty put the ball into play in the hole at short, but Lee made a nice play by chasing down the ball and throwing to Travis Hitzeman at third. The throw took Hitzeman to the bag and Hitzeman made a really nice tab on Madsen as both players went to the ground. Madsen was called out but the Hurricanes had a 4 to 0 lead.

The Hurricanes made it 5 to 0 in the third after Vince Parello singled with one out. Parello stole second and later scored on a single by Nash. The Spirits offense finally showed up in the bottom of the inning after David Tipton blasted a triple to the left-centerfield wall. A follow up single by Lester Bedford scored Tipton to cut the lead to, 5 to 1 before Reifschneider was able to set the remaining Spirits in order.

The Spirits clawed their way back in the bottom half of the fourth inning after Will Nash reached on a one-out error. Nash swiped second base and scored easily after Mike Sopocy belted a triple to the right-centerfield wall. Sopcoy scored a pitch later after Earl German hit for an RBI single. German moved to second after Chris Lewis crushed one of his two hits on the night, this one to the left field wall. Tipton was then able to reach safely on a fielder’s choice that squeezed German at third, but Bedford kept the inning alive with another RBI single to score Lewis before Chris Allen grounded out to end the inning with the Spirits now trailing 5 to 4.

The ghosts tied the game in the fifth inning after Sipila drew a leadoff walk. Both Hitzeman and Lee flew out, but Sipila went on to steal second base and later scored after Hackney doubled to tie the game at 5 to 5.

A single by Parello to start the sixth that easily could have been caught or fielded by Lee at short turned into trouble as Parello went on to steal second base to get into scoring position. The missed opportunity for the out was magnified after Parello advanced to third on a single by Raul Ponce. Jack Nash grounded out and Parrello was held at third base on the play. Ponce swiped second to put both runners in scoring position and an intentional walk to Reifschneider loaded the bags for Wylie. The move, initiated to create a force proved worthy but unfortunately didn’t work as intended after Wyle grounded out, allowing Parello to score and to give the Hurricanes a 6 to 5 lead. McCune drew a walk but Villalobos grounded out to end the inning.

With little time remaining on the league’s 2-hour game time limit, the Spirits headed into their final at-bat down a run. The Hurricanes had turned to a newcomer, Ricardo Franchi to pitch in the fifth and Franchi returned to the mound in the final inning and appeared to be a little nervous. Sopocy took advantage of this by drawing a walk and the walk only seemed to further Franchi’s nervousness after Sopocy stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Franchi walked German and two pitches later, Sopocy crossed the dish on another wild pitch and tied the game. The miscue allowed for German to take second base, so the Hurricanes then chose to intentionally walk Lewis, who had ripped the cover off of the ball in his previous two at-bats. The move created a force out and Tipton took to the dish looking for a hero opportunity. Both runners were able to move over on yet another wild pitch and one pitch later, Tipton came through with a nice piece of hitting, taking the outside pitch the other way for a smooth single to right field to give the Spirits the walk-off win.

“Great job by Tip (Tipton),” continued Lee. “It was a really nice comeback win. It’s bittersweet. Part of you wants the Hurricanes to win to feel good about Mason. But he also wouldn’t want us to give something away. Seems like we tried to early but the guys rallied nicely and we worked together to pick up a victory. Nice moment for David.”

The teams again met following the game to hold a prayer, led by Hackney as players and fans again wish Gann and his family peace before departing for the night. Both the Spirits and the Hurricanes would like to express their deepest condolences to the Gann family.

The Spirits return to work following a week off for the fourth of July holiday and will take the field again on July 11th when they host the Thunderbirds at McInnish Park, Field #11. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30PM and you can click here for schedule details.

Game Box Score

CORE Physical Medicine Players of the Game

Mike Sopocy (2-2, 2 R, RBI, BB, SB)

David Tipton (2-3, 3B, R, GW RBI)

Lester Bedford (2-2, 2 RBI)