Parker Hanks couldn’t have asked for much more to get his competitive juices flowing in his most recent appearance for the Springfield Cobras in the Show-Me Collegiate League.
Hanks was summoned to the mound in the sixth inning and the Cobras and Ozark Wild tied at 6. The first batter he faced was Wild outfielder Noah Suiter.
Hanks and Suiter, as locals are well aware, were teammates for three years at the prep level during their glory days at Ozark. Friends since their early youth, they’re your quintessential brothers from another mother.
“He’s a year older than me, but we’ve played together for years and we’re pretty close,” Hanks said. “I was out there to try to blow the ball by him. I was not letting him get the bragging rights in that matchup.”
Hanks fanned Suiter swinging.
“I gave him everything I got and luckily I got him,” he said. “That one was a little bit sweeter.”
Hanks went on to strike out the side in the sixth. After the Cobras took a 7-6 lead in the top of the seventh, he retired the Wild in order in the bottom of the inning to record the win.
“The fast ball was good,” Hanks said. “I got a strikeout and popup on sliders and got my other strikeouts on fast balls and changeups. I felt like all three pitches were working. I felt I established my fast ball from the first hitter and established the outside corner with a running fastball, a sinker basically.”
After the game, Hanks and Suiter emerged from their locker rooms together, but not a word was said about their duel. Hanks figured at some point he pitched against Suiter in an intra-squad scrimmage. But he believed this was the first time they faced each other in a game.
“He didn’t bring it up,” Hanks said of Suiter and their matchup. I’ll have to go and rag on him a little bit about it.”
Hanks wasn’t able to pitch the first two weeks of Show-Me League play, as he finished his spring semester classes at Northwestern. He’s since made four appearances for the Cobras, three in relief. His arm has responded as well as he could have hoped.
Hanks pitched in only one game for Northwestern this year, after receiving a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to his left elbow last fall. He was 3-5 with a 5.50, 31 strikeouts and 17 walks in 36 innings a year ago as a freshman.
Almost exclusively a starter for Ozark, Hanks has shuffled between starting and relieving at Northwestern. A relief role is somewhat new to him, but he’s well-versed in the importance of making every pitch count coming out of the bullpen.
“I knew if I threw some zeroes up, we had a chance to win and luckily we pulled it out,” he said. "I tried to attack the hitters. In that spot, the biggest thing is attacking. The worst thing to do is walk the lead-off hitter coming out of the 'pen. You’ve got to get first-pitch strikes and trust your stuff.”
While noting late-inning circumstances with the outcome very much in doubt, Hanks related he relishes being on the mound in such a scenario.
“It’s the ultimate test and ultimate role. You know you’re in a position to help your team,” Hanks said. “You have all the adrenaline because you know if you don’t make quality pitches, you get burned and it could cost your team. I feel like I hunt for that role. I like to be in there during those times.
“Whenever my name is called, I have to be ready,” he added. “That mindset to be ready all the time is something I’ve developed and hope to continue.”