UPDATE: Janesville Parker baseball reaches first state tourney since '92
JANESVILLE--Janesville Parker's celebration began with a dogpile in front of the pitcher's mound.
It continued with a leap into the Rock River.
And the revelry may still be going on right now.
Deservedly so. The Vikings are headed back to the WIAA Division 1 state baseball tournament for the first time since 1992. After beating Janesville Craig 6-1 in a sectional semifinal, Parker punched its ticket to Grand Chute with a 4-1 victory over Verona.
“I've seen so many teams pile on each other after a game, but I've never been on the team that's done it. It feels good to finally be a part of it,” Parker senior Cullen Osmond said. “This experience is crazy.”
The Vikings improved to 22-5 and will play Bay Port at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in a Division 1 state semifinal game at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium.
They got there thanks to a one-hitter, but it didn't come from ace left-hander Hunter Van Zandt. Senior Collin Powers allowed one run on one hit with three strikeouts and five walks to pave the way for the 4-1 win.
“There was a little pressure, but that's what we've done this season game in and game out—we come in with the mentality it's just another game,” Powers said. “It all just came down to executing and getting pitches across.”
Powers faced the minimum 12 batters over the final four innings.
The Vikings made him a little more comfortable by building early leads. First baseman Mitch Benway led off the second inning with a single and scored on designated hitter Brock Welch's double in the left-field gap.
After Verona tied the game 1-1 in the top of the third, Parker quickly regained the lead in its half of the inning. Shortstop Zach Bailey led off with a walk, and left fielder Logan Coulter followed with a single to right field.
Catcher Will Theisen made it 2-1 with an RBI single to center, and after the Vikings loaded the bases, Welch walked to plate another run.
Osmond made it 4-1 in the fourth when he led off with an inside-the-park home run. The ball bounced into the ivy on the left-field wall, but it was plucked out by the outfielder, making it a live ball.
“It's nice to see when a group of kids really bonds together and decides to put in the time and sees success,” Parker coach Brian Martin said. “That's what high school sports is all about. These guys get a chance that not too many get, and I couldn't be more happy.”
Van Zandt, the Big Eight Conference's player of the year, was sharp in the semifinal game against the Cougars.
He allowed just four hits and one run, striking out seven and walking none to earn a complete-game victory of his own.
Junior outfielder Connor Osmond went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI doubles, and the Vikings blew a close game open with four runs in the bottom of the sixth.
“It was 2-1 and we were right there,” Craig coach Vic Herbst said. “But Parker played a great baseball game. They've had a great year, and my hat's off to them.”
Parker will make its seventh state-tournament appearance next week but its first in 22 years.
The Vikings' lone state championship came in 1977.
“We're feeling good and we know we can do some damage (at state),” Cullen Osmond said. “We'll enjoy our day off and then get back to work later in the week and bring it to Appleton and show them what we can do.”