Van Zandt, Vikings deliver in Big Eight statement game
Hunter Van Zandt and the Janesville Parker Vikings wasted no time making a statement Wednesday.
Van Zandt struck out the side in the top of the first inning, and his teammates staked him to a nine-run lead through two frames against Middleton.
The left-hander finished with nine punchouts, and the Vikings cruised to a 13-0 Big Eight Conference victory that took just five innings at Riverside Park.
“I feel like we're playing well as a team right now,” Van Zandt said. “We're hitting the ball, playing good defense, and our pitching is there.
“We feel like we can do something special this season. We've got a great group of guys.”
After a leadoff out to start the bottom of the first inning, Zach Bailey, Logan Coulter and Will Theisen rattled consecutive singles through the right side to put the Vikings (4-1, 3-0 Big Eight) on the scoreboard. Then, with two outs, Brennan Olin smacked a two-run double to stake Van Zandt to a 3-0 lead.
The Vikings batted around, and then some, to chase Middleton (3-1, 2-1) starter Garrett Knudtson in the second. They scored six runs on four hits, and the Cardinals suffered from a pair of errors.
“We've been swinging the bats pretty well, and that was obviously huge,” Parker coach Brian Martin said. “It was a confidence boost for us to get three runs in the first and then to just keep it going. We couldn't have asked for a better start.”
In the field, Van Zandt went to work against the Cardinals hitters by delivering a healthy dose of first-pitch strikes.
The lefty gave up back-to-back singles with two outs in the third inning, but that was as big of a jam as he saw on a blustery evening.
“He's been lights-out,” Martin said. “That's a pretty good baseball team (Middleton) that we just played right there. By the time it's all said and done, they're going to have a lot of Ws. For us to come out and play that way, it's a great testament to where our guys are at right now.”
Parker right fielder Conner Osmond capped the day off with a three-run triple in the bottom of the fourth. His brother, Cullen, went 2-for-3 with a run and three driven in, Bailey finished 2-for-2 with a run-plating double and two runs, and first baseman Mitch Benway was 2-for-3 with a pair of runs.
Parker returns to the field Saturday at Madison East.