Two weeks into their first season, the Champion City Kings are starting to get comfortable as the newest team in the Prospect League.
Manager Brett Neffendorf said he’s still tweaking the infield to find the best defensive lineup. The offense is starting to come around as some players take wood bats to the plate for the first time.
As for shortstop Chris Perkovich, he’s already adjusted. Minor changes to his swing had driven his batting average up to .394 entering Thursday night’s game at Lorain County. The junior from Saginaw Valley State is 9-for-13 his last five games. He entered June hitting .188.
“He’s done a lot of work in the dorms and everywhere else to make some minor adjustments to his swing,” Kings hitting coach Matt Calhoun said. “He hasn’t missed his fastballs that a lot of guys have been fouling off early in the season. He’s been hitting fastballs on fastball counts. He’s been on fire.”
Perkovich and outfielder Jake Bennett have powered the Kings early. Bennett had been hitting .400 or better since June 2, until an 0-4 night Wednesday dropped his average to .372 and snapped a seven-game hitting streak.
Perkovich, who took a seven-game hitting streak into Thursday’s game, and Bennett rank third and fourth in the Prospect League in batting average.
“Our big thing is we have to find some guys to protect Jake Bennett,” Neffendorf said. “Jake can hit in that No. 3 hole, but if you don’t have guys behind him they’ll pitch around him. Chris Perkovich, putting him in the 5-hole really helped.”
As a team the Kings are hitting .238, sixth in the league.
“I think guys are still getting adjusted to hitting with wood,” Calhoun said. “It’s not as forgiving as aluminum bats are. I think the guys on our team who have played with wood bats throughout their college seasons are definitely making better contact. The ball is coming off their bat a little bit harder, just because they’ve played with them.”
Roster moves: The Kings added a pair of left-handed hitting outfielders during a four-game road trip to West Virginia and Lorain County. Sophomore Alex Fife from Western Nevada College and junior Daniel Jewett from the University of Nebraska Omaha will be with the team in Springfield. Outfielder Anthony El Chibani is no longer with the team.