Friday could be the big day for Missouri Southern ace Zach Parish.
The lefty, with 471 strikeouts in his collegiate career, is three shy of breaking the all-time NCAA Division II record heading into the Lions’ weekend series with Rogers State. Parish is expected to start the first game of Friday’s doubleheader that begins at 1 p.m. at Warren Turner Field.
“Unless something significant happens, he has a good shot at doing it,” MSSU coach Bryce Darnell said. “It’s just another incredible accomplishment to add to his resume. It’s a lot to be excited about, and we’re looking forward to the weekend.”
On the season, Parish, a native of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is 9-1 with a 1.38 earned run average and 119 punchouts. He’s already the Division II active leader in career strikeouts, innings pitched (367), starts (59) and wins (32).
The weekend will also mark the final regular-season series for the Lions (27-10, 20-10 MIAA) before the start of the MIAA postseason tournament. Southern is currently tied with Pittsburg State (25-11, 20-10) for third in the conference standings, with fifth-place Central Oklahoma (21-16, 15-12) trailing by 3 1/2 games.
MSSU was recently listed as one of eight teams “under consideration” for the first Division II Central Region rankings, which is expected to be released in completion in a couple of weeks. Unlike past seasons when each regional tournament would include eight teams, this year the field has been reduced to six teams per tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s quite a bit harder to get in this year, but right now we are one of the teams that are under consideration, as they put it,” Darnell said. “There’s no real ranking for two weeks, I believe. … So we just have to keep handling our business and hope we finish the season playing well and things go our way.”
Southern is coming off its fourth series sweep of the season after going 3-0 at Northwest Missouri last weekend. The sweep, according to Darnell, was “what the doctor ordered” after the Lions suffered three setbacks to PSU the week before.
“The guys played hard and played well,” he said. “Pitching was good. It was great to see Jacob Davis have a quality start in Game 3. Then, of course, Zach Parish and Will Bausinger did typical Zach and Will things. So we’re proud of those guys. There’s just a lot to be excited about with it being our Senior Weekend as well.”
Southern will honor its six seniors — Parish, Bausinger, Ryan Hunter, Joe Kinder, Troy Gagan and Corey Cowan — in a ceremony before the start of Saturday’s game at 1 p.m.
“This group of seniors is really special to me,” Darnell said. “I really feel just a deep connection to this bunch for whatever reason, and I’m just super proud of them. So I’m excited for them to play, and I think they’ll play well.”
Rogers State (17-18, 13-17) heads into the weekend looking to hold on to a top-eight spot in the conference that would qualify it to the postseason tournament. The Hillcats are currently seventh, leading eighth-place Emporia State by two games and ninth-place Northwest Missouri by three games.
“Rogers is obviously a new team to our league,” Darnell said. “They joined the league last year, but because of COVID and all of that, we didn’t play them. But that’s a good team with a good tradition. Plus, they have a lot to play for in terms of getting into the tournament and seeding for the tournament.”