The Parkview Vikings finished last season with a ho-hum 14-14 overall record, but many of those losses could have been converted into wins with a sharper pitching showcase.
Dropping nine games by ten runs or more in 2015, head coach John Thompson's team is ready to tighten up the loose screws in the pitching department.
“We struggled on the mound overall last season and will look to some younger guys to step in and fill some big roles on the mound this year,” Thompson said.
Although he says pitching help will come largely from a trio of sophomores, Thompson, now in his ninth year as head coach of the Vikings, will rely on senior Nick Henderson to lead the charge on the mound.
Showing positive signs as a hurler a season ago when he posted a 3-0 record with a 2.71 ERA, Henderson will be critical to the success of the Vikings as the season plays through.
“Henderson did a great job last year as a junior stepping up and giving us some very important innings on the mound,” Thompson said. “Our expectation this year is that he leads our staff in innings as he gives us a chance to compete every time he takes the ball.”
Another player expected to make a big impact is shortstop Max Koeppe. The talented junior was given the tall task of taking the shortstop job at the beginning of his sophomore campaign, but quickly seized the opportunity and dazzled his head coach – garnering 1st Team All-Conference honors as an infielder.
“We knew Max was going to go through some growing pains when we handed him the starting shortstop job as a sophomore, but he responded well and was up for the challenge,” said Thompson. “He has worked extremely hard in the offseason, so we are excited to see the payoff this year.”
With many parts from last year's team gone, including star center fielder Hunter Steinmetz (Missouri State), Koeppe is the lone returning starter in the field for Parkview – leaving an open opportunity for some less experienced players to grab a pair of outfield spots, two infield spots and pitching time behind Henderson.
“Though there will be lots of competition, every one of our guys knows they have the responsibility to build upon the success of previous seasons to ensure our program continues to grow in the right direction,” Thompson said.
Parkview's Ozark Conference portion of its schedule includes dates with Lebanon, Joplin, West Plains, Hillcrest and Waynesville at home, while contests against Camdenton, Glendale, Rolla and Kickapoo will take place on the road.
The Vikings begin their season on Mar. 18 with a doubleheader against Mexico and Excelsior Springs.