Hunter Van Zandt earns Big Eight player of year honors
And a sophomore shall lead them.
Janesville Parker's baseball team set a school record with 20 wins this season. Hunter Van Zandt is a big reason why.
The sophomore left-hander is 9-1 this season and was named the Big Eight Conference's Player of the Year.
Van Zandt is joined on the first team by teammates Cullen Osmond, Will Theisen and Logan Coulter. Janesville Craig's Nick Blomgren also made the first team.
Parker's Brian Martin was named Coach of the Year after leading the Vikings to a second-place finish in the conference.
Van Zandt is the fourth Parker player to win player of the year honors. Jim Miller (1982), Paul Meyer (1991) and Sean Stubbendick (2004) also won the award for the Vikings.
In nine of his 10 starts, Van Zandt allowed two earned runs or less.
“When Hunter pitches, if we can get a couple of runs early, that takes a lot of pressure off of our team because he has been so good,” Martin said. “We can go about our business and just play.
“To win this award as a sophomore, in what many consider year in and year out one of the best leagues in the state, is pretty special.”
Osmond earned first-team honors for the second straight year. The senior center fielder reached base in 42 of 91 plate appearances during the regular season and scored 29 runs.
“Other coaches commented that the key to playing us was to keep Cullen off the bases,” Martin said. “He was the most aggressive baserunner in our conference and caused a lot of problems for defenses when he was on base.”
Theisen, a senior catcher, is Parker's clean-up hitter and was voted team MVP. He hit .408 during the regular season.
“Will was a brick wall behind home plate,” Martin said. “Once he became our full-time catcher toward the end of last season, we have a record of 23-7.”
Coulter, a junior, leads the team in hitting. The left fielder is batting a robust .453 for the season, including a game-tying two-run home run in Parker's come-from-behind regional win over Madison West.
“Logan is one of the best pure hitters that we have ever had. He has a picture perfect swing,” Martin said.
Blomgren, a junior, is one of the top defensive catchers in the state and has a gun for a right arm. He has thrown out nine of 14 baserunners attempting to steal this season.
At the plate, Blomgren is batting .380, including six extra-base hits and a team-high 22 RBI.
“Defensively, Nick is as good as anyone I have seen behind the plate,” Craig coach Vic Herbst said. “He has virtually shut down many teams' running game.
“Nick has really taken his game to the next level in his development as a player, especially the mental part.”
Martin's peers voted him the coach of the year after guiding the Vikings to within one out of the school's first conference championship since 1995. Parker is 20-5 on the season heading into Tuesday's Division 1 sectional semifinal game against Craig.
“The players and my assistants have worked their butts off to put us in the position that we are in now,” Martin said. “It is truly a program award, and every person that has contributed in any way to our program has helped me win this award.”
Craig junior infielder McCauley Cox and senior outfielder Wyatt Olson were named to the second team, along with Parker junior infielder Zach Bailey.