ACE UP THE SLEEVE: Parker dubbed All-Metro Player of Year, headed to ECCC

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 4, 2016

NATCHEZ — Cathedral High School pitcher Sam Parker said he didn’t know he would miss Green Wave baseball as much as he does with his senior year behind him.

The East Central Community College signee won 10 games on the mound in 2016, and boasted a 1.03 ERA. Parker, unlike most of his senior class, will continue his playing career at the community college level. Although the game is the same, the setting and cast are different.

For The Natchez Democrat’s 2016 All-Metro Player of the year, that will be an adjustment.

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“I was elated (to be named Player of the Year) so I can wear the (Cathedral) uniform again,” Parker said. “The state championship game ( on May 18) was hard, I didn’t want to walk off the field.”

Parker said he will look back at the season with bittersweet nostalgia. While the final two games of the Green Wave’s campaign were state championship losses, he feels like he came into his own in his senior season.

“I pitched 16 games this season,” Parker said. “It was a fun season, but definitely felt like a full one.”

Parker ate innings for Cathedral, including 20 innings over three playoff starts.

Parker said his role as a freshman at East Central will be different. He said ECCC head coach Neil Holliman and pitching coach Tyler Buckley prefer a revolving door of pitchers, relying on the bullpen to carry the weight of the game sometimes one to two innings at a time.

Parker said it’s a relief to know he will likely be logging innings early on in his college career, but the change in philosophy will be an adjustment.

“They invited me to a game this year, and there were eight different pitchers in a nine-inning game,” Parker said. “If I establish myself like I hope I can do and keep the same locked-in mindset I’ve had on the high school mound, I feel like he is going to have a hard time getting the ball out of my hand.”

Parker attributes some of his ability and command to his focused mindset on the mound and in between innings. Parker, unlike some pitchers who prefer solitude in the hours before they start a game, is loose and talkative before a game he is scheduled to pitch. He listens to a playlist mixed and talks with teammates before the game. But once he starts long toss and dials in the bullpen, he’s all business.

“I used to be incredibly loose and Coach Craig (Beesley) would get mad at that,” Parker said. “This season I told myself I had to be that ace and get that Game 1 win in the series. That changed my whole mindset.”

Beesley said Parker seemed to develop the serious trait of a starting pitcher when he dealt the senior the role of the ace in 2016.

“I think, being the No.1 starter, he gained more confidence,” Parker said. “You could see him get more confident, more and more with each game. He was pitching his best games in the playoffs.”

The spring that Parker described as one of his longest didn’t actually end until last week when he appeared in the MAIS All Star Game. Parker pitched 3 innings and struck out two in his brief outing, and like that his high school career was a wrap.

Now, Parker has his sights set on getting stronger and following the program his East Central coaches have given him.

“I feel confident because as a freshman in high school, I pitched against varsity batters, and from there, I just worked and worked,” he said. “I’ll have a whole fall to prepare.”