None of the numbers mattered to Michael Wood.
Not the collective batting average for the NJCAA national team, its tournament-best runs average or its perfect record entering Thursday night’s game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
And certainly not his age.
Wood, who recently turned 19 after his first season at Everett (Wash.) Community College, is one of the youngest players in the tournament. That barely resonated with Wood as he pitched 6 1/3 strong innings of relief for the Seattle Studs in a 3-1 win that allowed them to avoid elimination.
Wood entered the game after an injury to Seattle starter Josh Berry with one out in the third inning, and lasted until there were two outs in the ninth. He was undaunted against the tournament’s most efficient offense, a lineup that includes two teenagers.
“I figured these guys are about the same age as me,” Wood said. “I just wanted to see what I had in my arm, and I threw well today.”
Wood’s age is also somewhat of an outlier on the Studs, who have traditionally combined college graduates and some players with professional experience with college players.
Thursday, 29-year-old Taylor Thompson, an NBC veteran, earned a one-out save pitching to the tying run; Bobby LeCount, a 23-year-old graduate of New Mexico State, scored two runs.
“This whole, entire summer, he’s worked up to being a solid starter,” LeCount said of Wood. “Being 19 and doing what he did was special. He’s just a normal, everyday guy. He’s been pitching well this whole, entire summer and we had every ounce of faith.”
Wood’s performance meant Seattle didn’t have to do much beyond its two fourth-inning runs, but low-scoring games haven’t been the pattern for the NJCAA national team, which was the last remaining unbeaten.
Seattle held the NJCAA team to its lowest output of the tournament one night after it beat Hays 12-7. In four games before Thursday, it had totaled 33 runs with a .346 average.
The Studs, however, proved more adept at making something out of nothing. They didn’t have an RBI hit – scoring on a sacrifice fly, an error and a fielder’s choice – while the NJCAA team managed an eighth-inning solo homer.
The NJCAA’s best chance at a big inning, when they advanced runners to second and third with one out, was stamped out when Dom Thompson-Williams was out trying to score on a pitch to the backstop, and No. 3 hitter David Petrino grounded out.
“With the way our pitchers were throwing, we knew we had to get up early,” LeCount said. “We had to get up early, then let Wood do his thing. Every single guy out of our bullpen can absolutely come in and get the job done.”
Wood hadn’t pitched in the tournament, and after more than 80 pitches, may not pitch again. But the right-hander performed beyond his years on Thursday.
“It’s an honor to be a Stud,” Wood said. “Every single one of these guys has so much knowledge that they pass on to you. It’s a great place to be. They carried me out there. All I had to do was make the guys put it in play, and they made the outs.”
NBC World Series
NJCAA national team vs. Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters, 6 p.m.
Seattle Studs vs. Hays-Haysville winner, 8:30 p.m.