Walking away a winner: Parks’ four-RBI effort powers Hawks to sweep of Vikings
QUINCY — Zach Parks didn’t find himself in an all-or-nothing situation, but the absence of an on-deck hitter behind him suggested it.
When the Quincy University left fielder went to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday, two scenarios existed.
If he collected a hit or a walk or reached on an error — anything that didn’t result in an out — the Hawks were going to walk off with a 10-run rule victory. If he made an out, they’d hustle out and play defense in the top of the eighth.
So there was no need for anyone to get ready to bat behind him.
“I knew if I got on or I got a base hit we’d get one more to finalize it,” Parks said. “With it being 35 degrees out here and windy, I know everybody was ready to go home.”
Parks sent them packing. He drew a four-pitch walk, forcing in pinch-runner Seth West with the final run in a 10-0 victory over Augustana at QU Stadium.
“There aren’t many walk-off walks,” Parks said. “But I’ll take it.”
Especially when it completes a sweep.
The Hawks, ranked 23rd in the NCBWA Division II poll with an 11-3 record, swept the Vikings in a three-game non-conference series and ran their win streak to seven straight games. They swept Northwood in a four-game series last weekend.
It marks the first back-to-back series sweeps since 2021 when the Hawks beat Truman State, Southwest Baptist and Rockhurst on consecutive series in the heart of a 14-game win streak.
“It was an awesome weekend,” Parks said. “Our staff came in and they just shoved, especially against a good team. Augustana is known for their excellence. They are always a really good team. Coming in here and sweeping them and taking care of business is a big deal.”
The way the Hawks’ pitchers handcuffed the Vikings was impressive.
After Spencer Walker and Griffin Kirn combined for 12 scoreless innings at the start of Friday’s two victories, right-hander Kobe Essien followed suit with 3 ⅓ scoreless innings. He had to be pulled in the fourth inning after a comebacker hit him in the foot.
The bullpen, though, didn’t teeter. Left-hander Roman Harrison worked 1 ⅔ scoreless innings to earn his second victory of the season in relief, while right-handers Carter Endisch and Chase Gockel each had a 1-2-3 inning.
Gockel struck out all three batters he faced as the Vikings struck out 12 times overall. Augustana had just three hits.
“Obviously, it’s not a very great day for hitting conditions,” QU coach Matt Schissel said. “Our guys were in the zone and in command.”
It looked like Augustana starter Seth Miller had command, too.
The right-hander struck out the first six Hawks he faced. The first QU hitter to get the bat on the ball was Joe Huffman, who flew out to center field leading off the third. Adam Lewis was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat, and Parks followed with a double down the left-field line.
A groundout and a single got both runners home and the offense opened up.
“The message to the team was to just keep plugging away,” Schissel said. “Bend but don’t break.”
Parks drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth, and Gino D’Alessio followed with a two-run single. Luke Napleton homered leading off the fifth, and Parks blasted a two-run home run to left field for an 8-0 lead in the sixth.
“Can’t beat it,” Parks said. “I’m not known for my pop, so getting into one backside feels pretty good.”
Napleton hit his fifth home run of the weekend and ninth of the season in the seventh before Parks walked it off, capping a stellar effort from the bottom of the lineup.
Nos. 6-9 in QU’s order combined for four hits, four RBIs and seven runs scored.
“Normally, it’s the middle of the lineup that contributes the most,” Parks said. “With me being in the bottom of the lineup, it’s really nice to at least contribute and it felt really, really good. I just wanted to stay through some fastballs and be on time. And it benefitted.”
It was just another reminder this team is a complete package.
“I think we definitely have one of the best lineups I’ve ever played with or seen,” Parks said. “We force pitches, and that’s tough on a pitcher. We force him into the zone, and if he’s not there, we’ll take the base.”
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