Apr. 9—It doesn't take much motivation for Zach Parish to take his game to a level that not many pitchers in NCAA Division II baseball can get to.
Friday afternoon was a good example.
A solo home run was hit off the Missouri Southern southpaw in the bottom of the second inning of the Lions' game against Newman, and that was when Parish took notice of the celebratory chatter coming from the Jets' dugout.
"Uh-oh, that one was sent," one player shouted.
"Back-to-back time, baby," another one exclaimed.
Parish's reaction was subtle, but intended. The senior nodded his head, adjusted his cap and toed the rubber with a stone-face demeanor — one that suggested nothing good was in store for the batters he'd face the rest of the afternoon.
Eight strikeouts and 5 2/3 shutout innings later, Parish had capped another winning effort as No. 11 MSSU pulled away for an 8-1 triumph over the Jets at Warren Turner Field.
"It's just being a competitive guy that I am," said Parish, who moved to 7-1 on the season. "I mean, when someone gets something good off of me and I hear them cheering, it puts me more in the zone and I just want to grind a little bit harder. I just look for ways I can help my team, and that was something that helped put me in a groove."
In total, Parish limited Newman to three hits and one earned run while striking out 10 batters in seven innings of work. The all-time MIAA strikeout leader is up to 86 punchouts in nine games played this season.
"He had 10 Ks and one walk, and he didn't even feel good about it," MSSU coach Bryce Darnell said of Parish. "That's just the type of competitor he is. Like I've said a million times, we seem to take him for granted. He's just a quality start, quality pitcher. This was another great day for him."
The win snapped a three-game conference skid for the Lions (19-6, 13-6 MIAA), who were swept the weekend before in a series with No. 5 Central Missouri.
"It's good to get a win and good to be back out playing," Darnell said. "The one thing about the new schedule this year is that we don't have the mid-week to kind of get the bad taste from last weekend out of our mouth. But yea, it was a good day for Zach and a good day for our offense."
The bats were hot early for the Lions as they plated three runs in the first two innings to take an early 3-1 lead.
MSSU leadoff Jordan Fitzpatrick, who finished 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored, took the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning and belted a solo home run out to right field for a quick 1-0 advantage. And later in the inning, Joe Kinder roped a liner to left field to plate Henry Kusiak for a 2-0 lead.
"It was good to see us come out swinging," Darnell said. "And of course, Fitz had a really good day. He was seeing the ball really well up there."
Newman posted its run in the top of the second before Southern responded in the bottom half with Fitzpatrick logging an RBI single that plated Dexter Swims, pushing the Lions' lead back to two runs.
After 4 1/2 scoreless innings, MSSU all but shut the door on Newman with a five-run seventh inning that was highlighted by four hits.
Troy Gagan opened the scoring in the frame with an RBI single to right center and later stole home on a throwing error. Kusiak followed that up with an RBI single to left field, and then Swims punctuated the surge with a two-RBI single up the middle to give the Lions the 8-1 lead that would eventually go final.
Relievers Scott Duensing and Cale McCallister finished out the final two innings for Southern and combined to hold Newman to no runs and just one hit.
The MSSU offense was fueled by 10 hits in the game. Swims finished 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and one runs scored, while Gagan was 2-for-5 with one RBI and one run scored.
Southern and Newman were scheduled to play a doubleheader on Friday, but the second game was canceled due approaching storms in the area. The two teams will now wrap up their series with a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 11 a.m.
Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.