Mark Parish, Joplin Blasters 1-Hit Amarillo Thunderheads
While it may just be 11 games into the American Association season, the Joplin Blasters under manager Carlos Lezcano are proving to be as formidable as any opponent in the South Division, including the vaunted defending league champion Wichita Wingnuts. Wednesday’s 8-0 win over the Amarillo Thunderheads keeps the club tied for first in the division, and serves notice that the Blasters are running at warp speed.
Mark Parish made his first start of the season Wednesday night and yielded nothing but two walks to Amarillo through six innings of work. Lezcano had the tough decision of sticking with his starter, but he chose to let his bullpen get into the game. Three innings later the staff had combined for the first 1-hit shutout in Joplin Blasters history.
The Blasters are eighth in the league in pitching, but have a very respectable 3.62 ERA. Their hitting, on the other hand, has been dynamite. The club is third in the AA in batting average at .283, and tied for fourth in home runs (7).
On this night the Blasters got to display why this offense is so good. After being held scoreless in the first, they plated runs in four of the next five innings. Chris Balcom-Miller started for Amarillo. In the bottom of the second, Omar Luna led off with a single, and scored when Carlos Ramirez homered for the second time this season. Following the home run Mitch Glasser walked and Jesus Solorzano singled. The Thunderheads starter retired the next two batters, but a walk to Oscar Mesa kept the inning alive for Yasser Gomez, who singled to score Glasser and give Joplin the 3-0 lead.
Nine men had come to bat in the second inning, meaning Luna would lead off the bottom of the third as well. He doubled and two batters later Glasser doubled, scoring Luna and staking Joplin’s starter to a 4-0 lead.
In the fourth the home team was held off the scoreboard, but in the fifth Luna came around in the order again. With one out he singled bringing Ramirez to the plate. The Blasters first baseman took a 1-1 offering and blasted it deep for his second home run of the day and third on the season.
Balcom-Miller (1-1) would retire the final batters of the inning without any further damage, but his day was over. The right-hander went 5 innings, allowing 8 hits, 3 walks and 6 earned runs. He struck out 1.
In the sixth Brooks Pinckard relieved for Amarillo. He retired two of the first three batters he faced, but the base on balls would haunt him, as he walked the bases loaded. That brought Luna to the plate, who singled, scoring Maikol Gonzalez and Gomez to make it 8-0. Luna proved to be a one man wrecking crew, going 4-4 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI.
While the Joplin Blasters were getting all of this run production from their batting order, Matt Parish (1-0) was silencing the Thunderheads bats. Parish gave up a one-out walk to Juan Martinez in the second, and a one-out walk to Logan Vick in the third. The only other Amarillo hitters to reach base came on errors in the first and fourth. The big right-hander retired the last eight hitters he faced, and left after throwing 81 pitches.
It was an absolutely brilliant performance that showed how much poise the young right-hander has. Many pitchers find it hard to focus with such a big lead because the pressure is not on, but not Parish. He remained in the zone, letting nothing phase him as he dominated the Thunderheads lineup.
In the seventh the newly signed Gabe Aguilar breezed through a 1-2-3 inning. In the eighth Matt Swilley took to the mound. The right-hander walked Rene Leveret to begin the frame, then struck out Taylor Smart and got Corey Bass to fly out. That brought up Vick. Swilley threw him a strike to begin the at-bat, then tried to nibble at the plate with the Amarillo right fielder. Vick took two balls then delivered a single to break up the no-hit bid. Swilley got Jordan Guida to line out to end the inning.
In the ninth inning, Victor Capellan took over the pitching duties. He retired the first two batters he faced before hitting Geraldo Valentin. Martinez popped out and that was the game. The Joplin Blasters had the first shutout in franchise history and nearly their first no-hitter.
While Luna and Ramirez had huge days offensively for Joplin, it was Parish’s night. The 25-year-old has clearly set a high bar for himself and has proven that he deserves a shot in the club’s rotation.
By Robert Pannier