Southeast Missouri State baseball player Kenton Parmley avoided most superstitions during record 47-game hitting streak

Friday, April 27, 2012

Southeast Missouri State shortstop Kenton Parmley does not tailor his life around superstition.

Southeast Missouri State's Kenton Parmley hits a two-run homer against Tennessee Tech during the fifth inning Saturday, April 21, 2012 at Capaha Field. (Fred Lynch)

Like many baseball players, he respects the white chalked lines when he takes the field for a game.

But he draws the line at the lines.

"I usually eat a Snickers bar in about the fifth or sixth inning. That's about the only thing I have to do," Parmley said.

The bat he wields apparently is his only avenue of dealing with the baseball gods.

Parmley switched to a 34-inch white Voodoo DeMarini bat near the end of his junior season, and the hits have been coming ever since.

He switched from a 33-inch bat because he felt his swing was too quick with the shorter bat.

He used the new bat to collect hits in his final seven games of 2011, which turned out to be Act One of a 47-game hitting streak that ended Sunday.

"Nothing did it for me like 'The White 34 Voodoo,'" Parmley said before Thursday's practice at Capaha Field. "That's where it all started."

With his Voodoo in hand, Parmley climbed the list of career hitting streaks in college history. His 47 games ranks third all-time, tied with former Wichita State standout Phil Stephenson, who reached the mark in 1981.

Southeast coach Mark Hogan has collected 902 wins and been a college coach for 31 years, which lends a rare perspective on the accomplishment of his four-year starting shortstop from Goreville, Ill.

"I have a sense of what third-ever means," Hogan said. "I'm not sure that Mr. Parmley does yet."

Parmley, who is batting .404 this season, does have some appreciation for a streak that only ranks behind the record of 58 games by Oklahoma State's Robin Ventura in 1987, and the 56-game streak of Florida International's Garrett Wittels that ended in 2011.

"It was definitely an accomplishment," Parmley said. "Especially coming during my senior season. My career is coming to an end, so it's definitely really exciting for myself, my family and friends. I'm sad it came to an end, but it's still a pretty impressive streak."

Senior first baseman Kody Campbell definitely has an appreciation.

"I don't even have 47 hits this year, and I've played every game," Campbell said with a smile.

Parmley credits Southeast senior All-American Trenton Moses with turning him on to the Voodoo.

Moses didn't need much of a sales pitch other than the monster year he enjoyed last season, one that netted him All-American honors and OVC player of the year.

"Trenton Moses used it all of last year, and he convinced me to try it out a few times, so I did," Parmley said.

Not even Moses could predict the magic that Parmley would unleash with the Voodoo on a baseball diamond, where superstitious players are known to reside.

"It's pretty tough to find a baseball player who doesn't have some superstition, whether they admit it or not," Moses said.

Some freely reveal their neurosis. Wittels was a magnet for superstition during his streak. He didn't cut his hair for more than a year, listened to the same music on the way to home games, chewed the same type gum and even made a habit of head-butting his trainer before taking the field each game, according to ESPN the Magazine and the Florida International University Student Media.

And Parmley, a creature of habit?

"Not at all," Moses said. "He's very unpredictable. Some days I'll have a superstition. Like if I have a good day wearing eye black, I'll want to wear eye black the next day. But he'll wear eye black, and the next day he won't. Just little things like that. I don't think he's into that stuff.

"I think he just goes with the flow and shows up to play."

The only known habit for Parmley -- aside from his mid-game craving for a Snickers -- was at least one hit a game.

He opened the season with a hit against Dallas Baptist University and kept adding to his streak.

He matched Kerry Robinson's school record of 35 consecutive games with a hit against Eastern Illinois on March 31, then nearly saw his streak end the following day in a 10-0 loss.

Southeast Missouri State senior Kenton Parmley is five hits away from matching Jeremy Johnson's school record of 287 hits during his Southeast career. (Fred Lynch)

Parmley was hitless when he came to the plate in the eighth inning.

"That's about all we had to play for in that game, which is a shame," Campbell said. "We were like, 'Hopefully we can get him up one more time,' because their pitcher shut us down."

The Panthers removed their starter before the inning, and Parmley faced a left-hander in his final chance to move ahead of Robinson.

Parmley, commonly described by his teammates and Hogan as a team-first player, found himself looking for a personal trophy in that situation.

"I don't want to share that record with anybody," Parmley said. "I'd like to have it for years to come. I want to at least be able to show at least my kid."

Parmley got a bedtime story for any future offspring when he singled between the third baseman and shortstop to claim the school record.

"It didn't really feel like I broke a school record that day after a 10-0 loss," Parmley said. "Winning is everything. That was just a personal accomplishment, and that just makes myself happy. But winning makes the whole team happy."

He equaled the OVC record of 42 games with three hits in a 7-2 loss April 13 at Morehead State. Parmley broke the record the following day with two hits in a 9-4 win.

"There was no doubt in anyone's mind he was going to get a hit," Moses said. "I feel like he just crushed the ball all weekend. It just felt like anytime there was any pressure, he just lived up to it. He's very clutch."

Parmley's laid-back style and team-first attitude served him well during his streak.

"The only days I felt any pressure was when like I was going to break a record, like the OVC record or the school record," Parmley said. "After that it was basically for personal accomplishment, I guess, was the feeling of it. It didn't mean too much to me. I'm just glad we won when [the streak ended]. It made it a lot easier for me."

The end came without warning last weekend.

Parmley took a 45-game hitting streak into the home series against Tennessee Tech and pushed it to 47 games with a power display. He belted a grand slam in Friday's 9-6 win and added a home run in an 8-3 loss the following day.

The home run string and hit string was snapped by Tech true freshman right-hander David Hess, who threw a complete game in a 3-1 loss to the Redhawks on Sunday.

Parmley was struck by a Hess curveball in the first inning.

"The first pitch of the game he started me off with a curveball," Parmley said. "I usually don't see that too much. He did it for a strike and used all three of his pitches -- changeup, curveball and fastball -- effectively and in all different counts."

He later hit into a force play and flew out to center. He capped an 0-for-3 day when he swung at a first-pitch curveball in the seventh inning and lofted a harmless fly ball to center.

"I don't ever remember getting a fastball in the zone," said Parmley, who said he saw only two fastballs all day. "I was getting some good swings off him, but he was just throwing them in perfect spots with perfect movement in all different counts, so he just kind of kept you off-balance as a hitter."

He celebrated the win with his teammates on the field. His streak was over, and he said he did not stew over any missed opportunities at the plate.

"I really don't regret anything," Parmley said "That's baseball. Days like that will happen."

His teammates embraced the moment as well.

"I just told him I was really proud of him," Moses said. "It was an amazing thing. An incredible, incredible feat."

Parmley's streak, which started against Mississippi on May 17, 2011, included 25 multi-hit games. Nine times he had three or more hits.

"If anybody was going to have a streak like that, it was going to have to be someone like him," Campbell said. "He focused a lot more on the game and letting it come to him, not pressing and being nervous. He was more worried about whether the team won or lost. The whole time he wasn't about the streak.

"I think if the truth be told, some of the other guys on the team, like me and coach Hogan and other guys were more worried about it than he was, which is why I think he was able to keep it going for such a long time."

His hits did not fall into a routine either.

"He had hits down the left-field line. He had hits down the right-field line. Up the middle," Hogan said. "It was just impressive."

If Parmley had any worry, he normally eliminated it early. He had hits in his first at-bat on 18 occasions. He had hits in nine states and against 19 different opponents. The hits in every game were clean and eliminated scoring calls from the equation.

"We would have liked to see it go further, but to get that far is just amazing," Moses said. "It's really cool to get to see it up close."

The baton for the team's longest hitting streak has been handed to sophomore Derek Gibson, who quietly has fashioned a 26-game hitting streak.

"Derek Gibson is coming up on me pretty quickly, so it might be gone by next year," Parmley said with a smile.

Gibson is a little more than halfway to the school record but is not seeing this particular glass as quite half full.

"I'm not even scratching the surface yet," Gibson said.

He'll have to take it to national proportions if he plans to surpass Parmley.

"It was unbelievable," Gibson said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime deal. I felt honored to be a part of it and be one of the 34 guys that got to see it happen."

Parmley, who now owns a one-game hitting streak after a single in Tuesday's loss to Southern Illinois Carbondale, is not ready to call it a career just yet. He's just five hits short of the school's all-time hits record of 287 set by Jeremy Johnson from 1997 to 2000, but he has one bigger goal in mind.

He wants to continue a streak established under Hogan. The Redhawks are tied for eighth place in the 10-team OVC and in threat of missing their first conference tournament in 18 years. Southeast, 5-10 in the conference and 14-28 overall, must finish in the top six teams to qualify.

"Definitely during my senior season, I don't want to be the team that doesn't make the tournament after 17 in a row," Parmley said. "I would definitely just love to make the tournament and give it a shot to make the regional before my career is over here."

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