Janesville Parker’s senior softball players have seen it all during their four years.
Most of them were part of a 2016 team that ended the program’s long drought between playoff victories. And then last year, with their top pitcher out, they endured an eight-win season.
With their final high school season set to begin Friday, Parker’s 10 seniors hope the best is yet to come.
“Maddy Byrne and Jordyn Nenno are captains, and they’ve been good at getting things organized. ... And Cam Rosga will be a good leader for us,” Parker coach Steve Heilman said. But I could probably list them all. A lot of these kids are four-year starters that were brought up as freshman, so they’ve been around.
“They’ve stuck it out, and I think they’re going to have a good year.”
Parker finished 6-12 in Big Eight Conference play last year, but Heilman believes that number would have been closer to .500 if pitcher Chelsea Naber was in the lineup.
Naber, who suffered a knee injury during the 2016-17 girls basketball season, missed all of last year.
But Heilman said the junior is healthy and hungry to get back in the circle.
hard all winter long and going to pitching coaches. She’s ready to go, kind of biting at the bit,” Heilman said. “She was our No. 1 as a freshman. She’s got good speed and a good changeup, a nice drop ball and is working on a rise ball. But she’s competitive; she’s not going to back down from any hitter.”
Junior Julianna Getka and senior Reave Myszewski will give the Vikings some pitching depth behind Naber, along with junior Jeni Malphy and Nenno.
Senior Brianna Garey returns as the Vikings’ starting catcher.
Senior Sydney Peterson is slated to start at first base, with Byrne at second. Mirnally Veguilla returns at shortstop, and Myszewski, Getka and Naber will play third depending on who’s pitching. Senior Courtney Howe gives the Vikings another infield option.
“In the Big Eight, you’ve got some kids who can hit, so you’ve got to be able to defend,” Heilman said. “We’ve been working a lot on defense, just the fundamentals and repping individual situations.”
Rosga gives the Vikings a solid fielding threat in center field. She’ll anchor the outfield, with Nenno and Malphy in the corners. Seniors Becca Vincetich and Miranda Spainhour, junior Alyssa Shaffer and Getka are also taking outfield reps.
Garey, Veguilla, Nenno and Rosga were each honorable mention all-Big Eight choices last season.
Heilman points to a close game last spring with Big Eight co-champion Sun Prairie as evidence that his Parker team can compete with the league favorites.
The Vikings, who open with a doubleheader with Milton and Fort Atkinson on Friday at the Janesville Youth Sports Complex, will see Sun Prairie in their fourth game of the season.
“We’ve got nine kids in the batting order than can hit. We may not be the fastest team, but I think we’re going to be able to put hits together and score runs,” Heilman said. “We’re going to have to work hard against everybody, because there’s a lot of good teams in this conference, but I don’t think anybody can look past us, either.”
Area softball fans will certainly be hard-pressed to find a team anywhere with more experience on a roster.
And with their starting pitcher back in the mix, the Vikings appear poised for one of their best seasons in recent memory.
“They’re kind of a quiet group, not a rah-rah bunch,” Heilman said. “But I’m seeing a quiet confidence and an attitude of just wanting to get the games going.
“I think the sky’s the limit as far as where these kids can go. They’ve got all the experience necessary, and now it’s just how bad they want it.”