Joe Hope’s lips flap like the wings of a hummingbird. The Parkway North sophomore left talkative in his rearview mirror 5 miles ago. No, Hope is a gabber and a yapper. Unless, of course, he’s pitching. A 6-foot-1, 170- pound, right-handed hurler for the Vikings, Hope doesn’t say boo when it’s his turn to throw. He treats the bench in the dugout like a pew. He’s quiet, calm and focused. He doesn’t say anything unless he’s spoken to—and even then it’s quick and to the point. “After every inning, I sit in the same spot and don’t talk,” Hope, 16, says. “I do that almost every game.”
As quiet as Hope is on a regular day, he took it to another level the first Friday in June. He was on the hill for the Vikings in their Class 4 semifinal against Willard at Meador Park in Springfield. Handed a 1-0 lead in the third inning, Hope would go on to throw a no-hitter and push Parkway North into its first-ever state title game the following day against Summit. Hope’s no-no was the 13th in the Missouri State High School Activities Association state series and first since 2002.
Hope threw seven innings, walked two, struck out seven and didn’t say a word in the dugout during the game. After the fifth inning, Hope knew a no-hitter was within reach. So did his teammates. Their body language was talking, even if they weren’t. “No one looked at me,” Hope says with a laugh. “It was just my night.”
For the season, Hope finished up 7-1 with a 3.40 earned run average. He threw 72 innings, struck out 52, walked 25 and allowed 68 hits, just one of which went for extra bases.
Parkway North coach Fred Friedman says one of the reasons Hope is so dominating on the mound is because of his relationship with his sophomore catcher, Garrett Taylor. The two have played organized baseball together for the last seven years and know each other’s tendencies, inside and out. “Those two have so much guts,” Friedman says. “Garrett calls all the pitches.”
That’s a huge responsibility for a young player to carry. Many high school coaches will tell their catcher what pitches to call on every play. Friedman says after that early win at Westminster, he gave his sophomore battery mates free reign. “I told them, You two guys just take it,” Friedman says.
Hope can locate his fastball and can throw a circle change up and a curveball. Hope and Taylor can make a batter’s life befuddling. Hope tries to imagine what the batter is expecting and do the opposite. If the situation calls for a fastball, Hope will whip out his off-speed stuff. “He’ll throw a 2-1 curveball or change-up to a hitter,” Friedman says. “It’s a huge advantage.”
Hope’s stuff was so good he nearly threw another no-hitter the week after the state semifinal. His first start with his select summer team, Hope got within two outs of keeping another team hitless. Hope says he’s thrown a couple of no-hitters before at various levels of select baseball, but nothing compares to the thrill of winning the state semifinal the way the Vikings did. “It’s a great accomplishment,” he says.