Sidney High graduate Connor Echols has a lot of good baseball stories to tell.
Like the time, as a 14-year-old playing for the Cincinnati Flames, he tweeted Reds star Brandon Phillips and asked him to come to his game. Phillips did, and the story was news all around Ohio.
Echols recently added another good one to his story-telling list. He was a member of the 18U Cincinnati Flames team that recently finished runner-up in the National Premier World Series in Springfield, Mo.
Echols said he’s been playing summer baseball with the Flames since he was “13 or 14,” and it has paid dividends — he will play baseball for the University of Dayton next spring.
“We probably played over 40 games over the summer,” Echols said of the Flames. “And in the nationals, we played nine games in five days, and it was 90 or 95 degrees all week.”
Echols had to battle illness to play in Missouri. On the first day of the tournament, he had strep throat. But it hardly affected his play — he had a single and a double, but when the game ended, he decided that was it, and headed off to urgent care.
“I definitely felt better the next day,” he said. “And I’m glad I could come back. The past few years, it seems like we would always make it to the quarterfinals or semifinals, but not play in the championship. You play teams from all over the nation.”
The Flames lost 9-6 in the championship game to a team from Wisconsin, but it was the farthest any Flames team had ever finished in the 18U World Series.
Echols is part of an elite squad. He said there are 16 players on the team, and all of them are playing Division I, Division II or junior college ball.
He told of a couple of his teammates who had committed to the University of Akron for next season. Unfortunately for them, the school dropped the sport. “Luckily, they both found strong junior college programs to join,” Echols said.
Despite his early-tournament illness, Echols was outstanding in the World Series. He finished with 12 hits in 20 at-bats for an even .600 batting average. Four of those hits were doubles.
In addition, with the number of games putting real stress on the pitching staff, Echols was asked to take a turn on the mound. He got plenty of offensive help, and the game lasted only five innings because of the run rule. And he wound up throwing a one-hitter.
He is done with the Flames for this season, so his focus is keeping sharp on his own, and then heading off to Dayton next month to begin his college career.
“I move in on the 22nd (August), and the next day we have a team meeting,” he said. “We’ll probably be out on the field that day, and then in the weight room, so right now, I’m doing what I can to keep my glove and bat fresh.
“I’m extremely excited about playing at Dayton,” he added.
Echols ended his career at Sidney hitting .449 last season, with a team-high 31 hits.
Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News
The writer is the sports editor of the Sidney Daily News. He can be reached at 937-538-4818.