Janesville Parker ready for big stage at state baseball
JANESVILLE—Brian Martin does not believe the state stage will be too big for his Janesville Parker Vikings.
The baseball team will make its first WIAA Division 1 state tournament appearance since 1992 when it plays Bay Port in a quarterfinal game at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
If they win, the Vikings play again in a semifinal game at approximately 6:05 p.m.
“I think they are focused on what they want to accomplish,” Martin said. “When we focus on things and have a goal and a way to attain it, we’ve come through. The approach has been, let’s play one pitch at a time.
“If we use that philosophy and the kids buy into it—which they have—it’s just another game for us.”
The Bay Port Pirates certainly have experience on their side, but the Vikings are simply worrying about what they can control.
“Just trying to go up there to have fun, but not too much fun,” Parker senior Cullen Osmond said. “We still want to play our ball. Our motto is staying on an even keel. Don’t get too excited, but don’t get too low where you’re not having any fun.”
Parker rode the arm of sophomore left-hander Hunter Van Zandt all year, and that won’t change in the first game Tuesday.
The sophomore went 8-1 with a 0.90 ERA in the regular season and picked up two more wins in the postseason. The Big Eight Conference’s player of the year struck out 64 hitters in 55 innings.
“As a 10th-grader starting a state tournament game, one of the first concerns is going to be, is it too big for him? But I don’t think it’s going to be,” Martin said. “Hunter, in my mind, is a cool customer. He doesn’t show much emotion out there, whether things are going good or going bad.”
The Vikings will also take with them to state a potent lineup, particularly in the upper half of the batting order.
Osmond, the leadoff hitter, hit .341 and is averaging more than one run scored per game.
Shortstop Zach Bailey has been a steady hitter in the second spot, and junior left fielder Logan Coulter follows with a team-high .447 batting average and .658 slugging percentage.
Senior catcher Will Theisen hits cleanup and has driven in a team-high 23 runs. Coulter and Theisen have combined to strike out just six times in 162 at-bats.
“I’d put our top four or five (hitters) up against anybody,” Martin said. “The top of our lineup is a pretty sharp group. They haven’t had too many games this year where they haven’t been able to put something together and score some runs.”
The Vikings know they have the talent.
Now it’s all about the mind-set.
“During the regular season, we were doing well and it was more like we had to tell them to take it seriously,” Theisen said. “Now that we’re going up there, we’ve got to let these guys know that we’re as good as any team, and we can go and compete and win the whole thing."