Parker advances to Division 1 semifinal
GRAND CHUTE--Brock Welch may have just earned himself a spot in the lineup for a state semifinal game.
The Janesville Parker junior ripped a two-out, pinch-hit single to left field, plating two decisive runs in the top of the sixth inning of Tuesday's Division 1 state quarterfinal against Bay Port.
Combined with sophomore Hunter Van Zandt's hard-working complete game, Welch's clutch hit helped the Vikings advance to the state semis with a 4-3 victory at Fox Cities Stadium.
Parker will face Big Eight Conference rival Sun Prairie at 6 tonight. The two teams split during the regular season and will play a rubber match for a berth in the state-title game.
“I'm just so proud of Brock,” Parker senior captain Will Theisen said. “Every single time he comes up, he delivers. That's all you can really ask from him. He's doing a great job.
“We're excited. It's something I can't even imagine. I knew we were good enough to come up here and win, but it's a whole other thing when you come up here and do it.”
The Vikings trailed 2-1 in the sixth and were down to their last four outs. With two outs and first baseman Mitch Benway on first, designated hitter Collin Powers belted a booming double off the left-field wall to tie the game.
Right fielder Connor Osmond and third baseman Brennan Olin drew back-to-back walks off Bay Port starter Dakota Klein—who was sharp most of the day to that point—to load the bases for the Vikings. Head coach Brian Martin turned to Welch, who hit .370 in 41 at-bats in the regular season.
“Coach (Mike) Brooks kind of let me know before the game to be ready,” Welch said. “And I was ready. I just knew what I had to do.”
After taking a first-pitch fastball down the middle, Welch got around on a second-pitch curveball and flared it over the shortstop, who was ranging toward the left-field foul line.
Pinch runner Hunter Yerke and Osmond each came home to give Parker a two-run lead.
“Brock's been swinging the bat real well,” Martin said. “When your number is called, are you ready to go? He was, and he came through for us.”
Bay Port got one run back in the bottom of the sixth and had a runner on third base with two outs in the seventh, but—as he had done all day—Van Zandt got out of the jam.
Bay Port outhit Parker 9-4 but stranded 11 runners on base. Van Zandt also walked four batters and struck out only three. Only one of his three runs allowed was earned.
“We reacted well (when in trouble),” Martin said. “We made pitches. We made defensive plays after those mistakes most of the time. Bases loaded, nobody out (in the third), and we got out of there giving up one run.
"That was huge. We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole, and we've got to go out and make the next play. That's what we did.”
Bottom line: Parker did enough to continue a magical 2014 campaign. And the Vikings are now one of the final four Division 1 teams standing.