By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Participation has been a tricky subject for the Parkview Baseball program in recent seasons. Numbers have dipped over the last few seasons dating back to John Thompson’s final year with the program.
Beau Davis has not been able to see a freshman team on the field in his first two seasons. Roughly 30 players are needed to do so, while the Vikings have hovered between 20 and 25. He expects that to change this year despite some heavy varsity losses, including the majority of his starting rotation and a hefty chunk of the heart of the batting order.
“We’re completely rebuilding, which isn’t always a bad thing,” he said.
Parkview finished 10-17 last spring with a first-round exit in districts. The pitching rotation returns 48 innings of work, primarily in the form of senior Evan Barnett. In 2018, he posted a 2-1 record in four starts with 13 strikeouts. He is likely to take over the No. 1 spot from graduated All-Ozark Conference selection Nick Young.
Junior Brandon Wiles is the only other returning player to have earned a start as he saw limited time on the mound last spring. Senior Deegan Cessna and sophomores Trenton Vivianno and Zane England were also called upon to pitch at times.
“We’ve been on a tight bullpen schedule since October and they’re looking good. It’s going to be up to who is consistently in the zone the most. We’re looking for Barnett to likely be our number one and then the next two to four guys will be pretty equal as they fill out our rotation.”
Parkview will get a boost from transfer Memphys Starks. The switch-hitting junior, already committed to Missouri State, could slot in at third base his 80 mile per hour fastball has the ability to add a different element to the pitching staff.
Among offensive returners, Barnett brings back the biggest numbers as well. He drove in seven runs on 16 hits with a .208 average as a junior.
Tanner Burnett also saw time at third base last year and will figure into the middle of the lineup. Vivianno will also likely earn an infield spot and bat leadoff while England will start in the outfield for the second straight season.
Davis would prefer if his key pieces would have more varsity hacks under their belts, but as has been the case in recent years, the door of opportunity is open to more underclassmen.
“That will be a big question mark. I need one or two of these young kids that are getting their opportunity at varsity this year to step up and earn a spot in the lineup,” he said. “We’re fundamentals early on. We’re just trying to get these guys comfortable. The game is going to be faster from the junior varsity level. I want to give them as many game-like reps as I possibly can to try and get them prepared for the season.”
The third-year coach doesn’t want to stress much beyond effort and competing every pitch. He feels confident the results will come if his group focuses on that. There is already a strong bond among teammates and he expects that to be helpful especially as the season begins.
“They gel together and have chemistry. This group gets along with each other. They inspire each other. That’s not something I really had the last two years, so that excites me. I’m frank with them: on paper, we may not have the talent that other teams we play have, but we can outwork them.”