Wes Earles grew up watching slow-pitch softball at Lagonda Fields on Mitchell Blvd. in Springfield, just a few blocks from Carleton Davidson Stadium.
Now, the Southeastern High School graduate and Wright State University sophomore pitcher is taking the mound for his hometown Champion City Kings.
“As a kid playing select ball, we always looked at this field like it was huge,” Earles said. “It’s awesome to come here every day and this is your ballpark. You’ve always got great fans, you’ve always got people who love to be here and are behind you. We’ve got a good support system here.”
Earles, a 6-foot, 195-pound left-handed pitcher, is 1-0 with a 3.97 earned run average for the Kings this summer. In 22.2 innings pitched, Earles has allowed 23 hits, while striking out 32 and walking 12 with one save.
“Being able to come back and play at home is awesome because Springfield has done a lot of good things for me,” Earles said. “It’s helped me get my name out there and it’s always been home my whole life. To be able to come back here and play for people I know and try to do something special here, it’s pretty awesome.”
He initially pitched out of the bullpen, but became a starter recently for the Kings — something he hadn’t done since his senior year at Southeastern.
“I had to figure it out,” Earles said. “In the future, I obviously want to be a starter. It was awesome to work with a coach like (John Jeanes) who knows as much as he does and in this environment. I thought there was no other place to start working to get back. It’s different throwing 80 pitches as opposed to throwing 30 or 40 out of the pen. It’s been a transition and a learning experience, but I’m ecstatic somebody gave me the chance.”
Earles pitched out of the bullpen last season at Wright State University, appearing in 11 games with a 7.36 earned run average and 14 strikeouts.
Last spring, Earles said he struggled with his breaking pitches. He’s spent the summer working on getting better command of his off-speed stuff.
He hopes to be a starter at Wright State next year, but will do whatever his coaching staff needs, he said.
“I want to do whatever I can to help the team,” Earles said. “I’m going to work very hard and give it my all. We’ve got some unfinished business as a team and I’m ready to be a part of it.”
The camaraderie on the Kings squad has been an added bonus this summer, he said.
“This has been my favorite team I’ve ever been on,” Earles said. “It’s so much fun. All the guys are awesome, the coaches are awesome. We all love each other, we all compete and get it after it.”
All-Star experience: Four Kings players appeared in the Prospect League All-Star on July 23 in Normal, Ill.
Third baseman Stephen Cullen homered in the ninth inning as the East Division beat the West Division 11-2. Bo Seccombe and Jacob Freeland each went 0-for-2, while pitcher Jared Hatch tossed a scoreless fourth inning, allowing just one hit.
Seccombe also competed in the home run derby, falling in the semifinals. Normal’s Canyon McWilliams beat Cape Girardeau’s Ryan Stone to win the championship.
Six-pack: The Kings have six home dates remaining this season, including a four-game homestand beginning Saturday against Lafayette. They’ll host West Virginia on July 28 and play a two-game set against Chillicothe on July 29 and 30.
The final two home games of the season will be played on Aug. 4 (West Virginia, 4 p.m. start) and Aug. 5 (Fireworks Night, 6:35 p.m., all tickets $10).
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