The collective youth of the Wichita Prospects was evident in several instances during their NBC World Series game on Tuesday against San Luis Obispo.
Those occasions were to be expected, as the Prospects are made up of players who are entering college or haven’t yet finished high school.
The talent of the Prospects nearly overcame their inexperience, but San Luis Obispo, a team stocked with high Division I players, held them off 6-5 in a first-round game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The Prospects had the tying run in scoring position after scoring two runs in the ninth, but leadoff hitter Logan Beard swung at the first pitch and grounded out to end the game. Wichita nearly rallied for a second time after initially rebounding from a 3-1 deficit.
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"We’re all competitive guys," Prospects coach Kenny Waddell said. "We all want to come out and put our best foot forward no matter who we’re playing. I think it says a lot about our team the way they come out and played with a lot of heart."
The nerves expected from the Prospects, playing in their first NBC Tournament, showed up early as they committed two errors that led to an unearned run for San Luis Obispo in the first inning.
Wichita made three errors in the game, but their concerns over defense were quickly translated to figuring out how to hit Blues starter Will Cox, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander from Mississippi State.
Cox retired the first 10 batters before Thomas Meitzner broke through with a fourth-inning single. That led to two more hits and a run in the inning, which sparked the Prospects and helped them tie it 3-3 in the sixth.
"We were a little nervous, we were all anxious to play," said Wichita third baseman J.C. Sturgeon said. "I think going to wood bats compared to using metal all summer, I think that made a difference. But then we kind of settled into it."
The most obvious distinction between the teams, at least through eight innings, appeared to be their pitching depth. After Cox allowed the tying runs in the sixth, the Blues brought in lefty Chad Girodo, who struck out the first five hitters he faced and held Wichita scoreless over 2 2/3 innings.
Wichita’s first reliever, following Trey Johnson, was Tevin Parks, who recently completed his prep career at Southeast and who hasn’t decided on a college. Parks was tagged for the three decisive runs.
"Carrying a roster of 13 all summer to jumping into a tournament where you have a roster of 28, you’re going to be a little short-staffed," Waddell said. "But my guys, they’ll compete all the way through."
Sturgeon, who had a hit in every inning the Prospects scored, started the ninth with a triple, and two more hits, a wild pitch and an error got the tying run to second with two outs. But Beard went after a high and inside pitch and rolled it to second for the final out.
"We kind of hurt ourselves in the field — we kicked it around and gave them gave them some runs that we shouldn’t have," Sturgeon said. "Those are easy outs and we gave them a lot of runs. But we made a good run at it."