Champion City Kings off to sizzling start

Cutline: Champion City Kings shortstop Ben Ross throws the ball to first base during their game against the Chillicothe Paints on Friday, June 4 at Carleton Davidson Stadium in Springfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER
Cutline: Champion City Kings shortstop Ben Ross throws the ball to first base during their game against the Chillicothe Paints on Friday, June 4 at Carleton Davidson Stadium in Springfield. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

Credit: Michael Cooper

Credit: Michael Cooper

SPRINGFIELD — The Champion City Kings are off to a fast start this season.

The Springfield-based collegiate wooden bat summer league team is 7-3 through 10 games. They’re leading the Prospect League’s Ohio River Valley Division by 2.5 games over the West Virginia Miners (4-5) and the Chillicothe Paints (4-5). They’re also tied for the best record in the entire 16-team Prospect League with the Lafayette Aviators and the Clinton LumberKings.

“We went to work this year putting together a good lineup,” said Kings manager Gavin Murphy. “I was here in 2019 as an assistant. I know what the Kings want. We wanted to put together a good group of guys on and off the field and I think that’s what we’ve got.”

Springfield native and Shawnee grad Ben Ross has played a major role in the Kings’ early season success. He’s hitting .385 with two home runs, four RBIs and six stolen bases for Champion City this spring.

“They’ve been great team wins, one after another,” Ross said.

During his redshirt freshman season at Notre Dame College, Ross led the Falcons in virtually every offensive category. He hit .426 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs, earning D-II All-American honors.

Ross grew up attending Kings games at Carleton Davidson Stadium and wanted nothing more than to play in Springfield this summer.

“I love it,” Ross said. “It’s great to play in front of the hometown crowd.”

Ross has impressedMurphy through the first two weeks of the season.

“His offensive prowess at the plate, it’s not something you see as a sophomore,” Murphy said. “He’s a phenomenal kid on and off the field. We’re lucky to have him. He wanted to come play for the Kings this summer and it’s a big pick-up for us. He’s got a bright future in this game.”

Now that he’s here, Ross wants to help the Kings earn their first winning season since the franchise joined the Prospect League in 2014.

“I’m surrounded by great guys, great coaches,” Ross said. “It’s a great program. I love everything about it. That makes it a lot of fun.”

Kings first baseman Lucas Galdoni, a sophomore at Butler University, is hitting .441 with 11 RBIs and four doubles, while outfielder Chase Carney, a freshman at Flagler College, is hitting .395 with 11 RBIs and six doubles.

The Kings began the season with 16 players and more will roll into town as college postseason tournaments wrap up, Murphy said. They’ll continue to work hard to keep players fresh during the grueling 60-game schedule, he said.

The first half winner of the Ohio River Valley Division automatically advances to the postseason as part of the Prospect League’s new playoff format, making the fast start even more crucial, Murphy said.

“The first half is important,” he said. “We want to play hard every night and put the best nine we can put on the field and try to have a good first half and keep the momentum going into the second half. I’m really big on momentum. If we can keep this momentum, we’ve got a really good chance.”

Most importantly, Murphy is happy to see fans back at the stadium.

“I love this community,” he said. “They’ve been great to me. The Kings organization has a lot of confidence in me being a young guy at the head of this team. Being back and having baseball in Springfield for the summer is awesome. This community is very supportive.”

NEXT GAME

Who: Johnstown Mill Rats at Champion City Kings

When: 6:35 p.m. today

Where: Carleton Davidson Stadium, 1101 Mitchell Blvd., Springfield

Cost: $8 for adults; $6 for students, seniors and military; Children 5 and under free.

In Other News