Prep Baseball

Parker Bechen persevered horrific injury to help lead No. 2-ranked North Linn baseball team

Senior is 3 years removed from batting practice accident that led to surgery; had 3 hits and 2 RBIs in 6-2 win over Belle Plaine

North Linn head coach Travis Griffith (from left) talks with pinch runner  Parker Bechen (8) during the fifth inning of
North Linn head coach Travis Griffith (from left) talks with pinch runner Parker Bechen (8) during the fifth inning of their 1A semifinal game in the state baseball tournament at Principal Park in Des Moines on Thursday, Jul. 26, 2018. (The Gazette)

TROY MILLS — Like many seniors, North Linn’s Parker Bechen appreciates a chance to play his senior baseball season.

His situation is a little different. He’s dealing with the coronavirus threat like everyone else, but Bechen is only three years removed from a horrific batting-practice accident where he was severely injured when a batted ball struck him in the head. He missed his entire freshman campaign, recovering from surgery to insert multiple plates in his forehead and nasal areas.

Bechen continues to battle headaches, but has persevered to become a leader for the Class 2A second-ranked Lynx.

“I think I’ve had the longest headache streak,” Bechen said. “It’s just become a part of my daily life. If it gets too bad, I will take some Tylenol, ibuprofen or stuff like that. It will calm down then.

“What has really helped me is sports, keeping my mind going. I don’t really think about it much. Just go, go and go. It helps me a lot.”

Bechen powered North Linn to a 6-2 victory over Belle Plaine in a home non-conference game Friday night, tallying three hits and two RBIs with three runs. North Linn improved to 14-2.

North Linn’s No. 2 batter had recently worked on his mechanics, seeing another instructor thanks to Lynx Coach Travis Griffith.

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“At the beginning of the season, I was struggling,” Bechen said. “Griff had me go see someone to help me with my swing this last week. This week, I’ve been hitting the heck out of the ball.”

The comeback began as a sophomore, serving as a runner. His role grew last season, but he is a versatile middle infielder who has recently returned to the mound with a 2-0 record.

“It’s amazing,” Griffith said. “I wasn’t even sure he was going to be alive, nevertheless having a chance to play sports again or live a normal life. We didn’t know.

“I think the first time he came back he was hesitant. You could just tell. His junior year was a much better year, but he was still hesitant. Sometimes he still is but not as much.”

Griffith recalled arriving at the diamond before a Tri-Rivers Conference doubleheader on June 16. Bechen was pitching in the bullpen. He asked for a chance to take the mound for the first time since the batting practice pitch that nearly killed him.

Griffith supported him and Bechen responded with a six-inning complete game with 11 strikeouts in a 13-3 victory.

“I said I’d take on that challenge right away, if you want to do it,” Griffith said. “He went out and threw outstanding.”

Bechen improved his season batting average to .327 and owns a .381 on-base percentage Friday. He added three singles to his total and maintained tied with Lucas Voss for the team lead in RBIs with 23.

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The Lynx (14-2) captured the victory thanks to three two-run innings. They claimed their first advantage in the third, capitalizing on consecutive two-out errors that scored Bechen and Voss.

Bechen and Voss came through with RBI singles in the fourth and again in the sixth, which helped ice the game.

“He’s a perfect RBI guy because he’s going to put the ball in play,” Griffith said. “He can roll over on a groundball, get RBIs in a lot of ways and he had a couple big clutch hits for us tonight.”

Austin Hilmer pitched in with two hits and a run. The Lynx finished with 12 hits and eight starters had at least one. Voss worked five innings of relief for his second victory.

Jaxon Kressley, Connor Timm and Noah Bachelder had two hits apiece to lead Belle Plaine. Kressley led off with an infield single in the first and scored on Bachelder’s bases loaded walk. Timm doubled, advanced to third on Trevin Straight’s base hit and scored on a balk in the fifth for the Plainsmen (2-8).

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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