The Champion City Kings — the newest team in the Prospect League — had just dropped its inaugural game 2-1 in Springfield.
The only way to tell, though, was by looking at the scoreboard.
The Kings, a summer collegiate wooden bat team, were showered with applause throughout the game and sought by autograph seekers after it. Everything went right in the Kings debut, well, except for the final score.
“I know our guys were pumped,” said Kings manager Brett Neffendorf. “They were supposed to be ready to go on the field at 6 p.m. to get loose. They were on the field at 5:20. It was a great first day and the fans were really into it.”
The Kings almost treated them to a walk-off win against the Chillicothe Paints.
Champion City entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 2-1. Trevor Lowe led off with a walk and advanced to second on Anthony El Chibani’s sacrifice bunt. Trevor Kimm walked, but the rally ended there on a foul out to first base and a grounder to short.
The crowd of about 950 spectators at Carleton Davidson Stadium didn’t seem to mind. Adults were overheard talking about coming back. Kids scampered into the dugout to greet the players and perhaps find a favorite to cheer for.
Second baseman Leiff Clarkson collected the Kings’ first hit with a one-out single in the first inning. Center fielder Kyle Norris had the team’s first extra-base hit and run batted in. His double in the seventh plated left fielder Trevor Lowe.
Catcher Brent Hermanussen had two of the Kings’ four hits.
“The fans were great. I heard nothing but positive encouragement,” Hermanussen said. “I’m sure there were a little nerves, but I don’t know any of us will admit.”
The Kings left 10 runners on base against the Paints, who continue their three-game series 7:35 p.m. Thursday.
“It was good to see a pitching battle from both sides,” Neffendorf said. “I thought our guys competed well and they’re starting to get a feel for each other. … These guys are seeing pitchers they haven’t seen and hitting in an order they never have.”
Chillicothe led 1-0 in the first and 2-0 after six innings. Champion City starter Ryan Thurston allowed four hits, struck out five and walked one in five innings pitched.
Kenton Ridge graduate and Wright State hurler Luke Mamer gets the start Thursday.