A two-win campaign isn’t what the Parsons Vikings baseball team envisioned in its return following the lost season from last year.
Parsons finished the year 2-16 and missed out on a berth to a KSHSAA 4A Regional bracket. Parsons and Coffeyville both finished the year with one win in SEK League play — it came against each other.
“We were, for the most part, fairly young,” Parsons assistant coach Andy Hopper said. “By the end of the season, we had three freshmen and two sophomores in the starting rotation. Any time you’re that young, it’s going to be difficult to compete at the varsity level.”
A trend that emerged from the pandemic-cancelled season in 2020 was that teams that featured older, returning talent had insurance to cash in while younger teams in rebuild mode were significantly stunted.
“Essentially, the sophomore class was an extension of the freshman class,” Hopper said. “The pandemic definitely hurt us. We had two classes worth of freshmen out there and we were asking them to compete at that level.”
There were only four seniors — Ethan Houk, Ethan Pellock, Gavin Salyers and Luke Forbes — on the Vikings roster at season’s end.
“I felt there was a pretty tough push there,” Hopper said. “We had upperclassmen and everybody else trying their best. But we’d have one mistake, and that gets everybody into a bad mindset. You’re trying to break that cycle night-to-night. It almost felt like we needed to play perfect to win.”
But a slew of youth for Parsons has aspirations for a quick turnaround.
Landon Wheat hit .346 for the Vikings this season. Paxton Swanson got seven starts on the mound and looks to improve. Others like Henry Keal, Tra Mack and JJ Kendrick have the looks of a solid corps of talent.
“We’re pumped about what we have coming back and what the future holds for us,” Hopper said. “We’ve got kids coming in that played a lot of travel ball over the summer and have a lot of experience. We’re still translating that to high school experience, but the future is bright.”
Parsons is just three years removed from finishing third at the KSHSAA 4A state tournament. There is a foundation the Vikings can hang their caps on as it seeks to get back into contention.
“We can’t neglect any aspect of the game,” Hopper said. “But I would say what we’re really focused on is pitching on every level. We’ve also got to be more consistent offensively. That’ll come as our guys get bigger and stronger.”
The message from the Vikings’ coaches is simple.
“While we’re righting the ship, we want everybody to trust the process,” Hopper said. “We’re making every effort to improve in the coming seasons.”