Neosho pitcher makes most of his Chance
One year ago, Chance Sinclair could only watch from the dugout.
That only made him hungrier to lead Neosho County (Kan.) Community College back to the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series this year.
The sophomore pitched the Panthers’ opener Sunday night and made the most of it. He pitched a complete game, leading Neosho to a 2-1 victory over Cochise (Ariz.) College. The Apaches, however, turned around and eliminated Neosho on Wednesday afternoon.
“It was a pretty awesome experience,” Sinclair said. “It’s cool to be a part of (it). Twelve thousand fans is a lot of people. It’s a pretty surreal experience. It’s one of the best experiences I’ll have the rest of my life.”
Sinclair started off last season as the No. 4 starter for the Panthers but moved up to No. 2 by the end of the season.
“He was our No. 4 guy only because he was a rookie,” Neosho County coach Steve Murry said. “The three guys in front of him, two were (eventual) pro guys and one was a Division I. By the end of the year, he became a No. 2 guy. We counted on him heavily. He had a sub-two ERA and was huge to our team’s success.”
Sinclair was injured in a car accident the day before the Panthers’ qualifying tournament in Wichita. Sinclair and a former Neosho County reserve player were on their way back to campus in Chanute, Kan., from their hometown in Spring Hill, Kan., when they were in a single-car accident.
“I don’t remember a lot,” Sinclair said. “I think I was in shock more than anything. It was late at night.”
Sinclair was sitting in the passenger seat half asleep when suddenly the vehicle went off the road and ended upside down.
Sinclair had a fracture in his left knee.
“At first you were hopeful for his safety. Second, you were hopeful for his career,” Murry said. “Then you were leaving toward the playoffs with the other 29 guys and you had to get them focused and prepared, so it was a very difficult time for us.”
Neosho won the Central District tournament with three complete-game performances from its top three pitchers to qualify for the World Series.
“We knew we’d need Chance at the World Series, and (he) wouldn’t be available,” Murry said. “That’s when the blow was harder.”
Sinclair came with the team, but he could only watch.
“The players always joke with Chance about him costing us a national title because he would’ve been throwing against San Jac,” Murry said. “He’s a good sport. He wore it, but deep down, missing that experience fueled him to work even harder.”
Shortly after Neosho returned home after the World Series, Sinclair found out he was injured worse than originally thought. An MRI revealed ligament damage in the left knee requiring surgery and six months of rehabilitation.
He was cleared to start throwing in November and to play during the Christmas break from school — just in time to play in the spring.
“Seeing how cool this tournament was made me more determined to work harder and try to make this goal a reality for next year,” Sinclair said. “I knew we had a young team (this year), but there is a lot of talent on this team. It took some growing up, but we got hot at the right time.
“It’s such a cool tournament. People here are so great.”
Now, Sinclair awaits to see what happens in the next couple of weeks when he’s expected to be drafted. If he doesn’t get what he’s looking for, he will continue his education while playing for the University of Nebraska.
“I’ve thought about (the draft),” Sinclair said. “I don’t know how that will work out yet. If it works, I’ll start my career there. If not, I like Nebraska a lot. I like what the coaches are doing. That will be fun, too. I’m excited to keep playing baseball.”
Murry is confident he’ll do well whichever direction he goes.
“If he lowered his price, he could be drafted this year by multiple teams,” Murry said. “He’s not afraid to go to school. The University of Nebraska is a great place for him. He’ll do well as a Husker.”