Coulter's homer rallies Parker to victory
JANESVILLE--Logan Coulter saved the season for Janesville Parker’s baseball team.
Brennan Olin extended it.
Coulter hit a two-run home run to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and Olin’s sacrifice fly later in the inning won the game as the Vikings rallied for a 5-4 win over Madison West on Thursday in a WIAA Division 1 regional final game.
Parker (20-5) plays Janesville Craig (16-10) at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Riverside Park in a sectional semifinal game. The Vikings swept the two regular-season games between the crosstown rivals.
In beating West for the third time this season, Parker had to overcome a leaky defense and a subpar outing from pitcher Hunter Van Zandt. The Big Eight’s Player of the Year picked up the win, but he allowed three earned runs for the first time this season and had trouble throwing his curveball for strikes.
“They give you 21 outs for a reason, and our kids have been taught and believe we’re going to use all 21 outs,” Parker coach Brian Martin said. “In the past, we may have found a way to lose a game like this, but with the success we’ve had this season, we’ve found ways to win games like this.”
West scored one run in the top of the sixth to take a 4-2 lead. Parker went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning before coming alive in the seventh. Zach Bailey walked to start the seventh, and Coulter followed with a long home run to right on a 1-1 count off reliever Joe Trier.
Coulter wasn’t looking to tie the game in the at-bat but came close to depositing the ball into the Rock River with his first home run of the season.
“He just made a mistake with a pitch inside, and I saw my opportunity and took it,” Coulter said. “I just wanted to hit the ball hard. Wherever it goes, it goes.”
Coulter’s heroics swung the momentum in Parker’s favor, and the Vikings took advantage. Will Theisen singled following Coulter’s home run but was forced out at second. With one out, Collin Powers walked to put runners on first and second.
West made a pitching change, and reliever Rock Cates beaned Conner Osmond to load the bases. Olin then hit a sacrifice fly to center on a two-strike pitch to score Mitch Benway with the winning run.
Van Zandt went the distance to improve to 9-1. The sophomore left-hander allowed seven hits and struck out three.
“Hunter didn’t have his best stuff, and he’d be the first to tell you that,” Martin said. “But the defense behind him wasn’t as crisp or sharp as it has been most of the season, and when he needed to make a pitch to get out of trouble, he did.”
Parker has now won 20 games for the first time in school history and is two wins away from its first state tournament berth since 1992. The first step is Craig.
“I don’t see any reason why our guys aren’t going to be fired up and confident,” Martin said of Tuesday’s clash with Craig. “Yeah, it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year, but we did it today. It’s one pitch at a time, one game at a time. It really doesn’t matter what has happened in the past.”