Just about every person in this country got the day off on Memorial Day Monday, and most of them spent it lounging around the pool, or possibly enjoying some barbeque in front of the TV, while pausing to remember the men and women of our Armed Forces who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country.
But for the members of the baseball program, Monday was also a work day, and a tough one thanks to sweltering temperatures.
But to a man, the Vikings players and coaches all agree that their 2012 Memorial Day couldn't have been spent any better, as they were preparing for a trip to Springfield this weekend for the State Baseball semifinals.
"It's very cool," senior Michael Bozarth, North's starting centerfielder and leading hitter said, during a less sweltering practice for the Vikings on Tuesday. "It kind of feels like being a big leaguer. No school, no homework, just wake up and go play baseball. It's pretty awesome."
And it's been that way for the Vikes ever since they clinched a spot in this weekend's final four last Thursday, with a 6-1 win over Saint Louis University High.
Parkway North has only been this deep in baseball postseason play once before in school history. Bob Bunton (now an assistant) was the Head Coach and Coach Mark Reeder (a player back then) were around when the Vikes last made it to the state semifinals.
"It's been a long time," head coach Fred Friedman said. "A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work to get us back to here. It means a whole lot to a lot of people that Parkway North is going to state."
None more so than Bozarth, a kid who's got more baseball in his future, with a full scholarship to play ball at Saint Louis University next year.
But for now, the best hitter on the Vikings, with a .515 batting average and a team-high 52 hits this season, is just looking forward to getting to Springfield, and playing two games for the state championship, beginning with a matchup at historic Meador Park against Willard (MO) High, Friday night at 7 p.m.
"We don't really look too far ahead," Bozarth said. "We pretty much try to just focus on the game in front of us."
And that approach has worked like a charm, especially for underclassmen pitchers Joey Hope and Joey Reeves, who both won big games for the Vikes in their last starts.
Then on Thursday,
"I don't know what more we can say about those guys," Friedman said. "They might only be 15- and 14-years old, but I think Coach Reeder said it best, 'on the mound, they're as composed as anybody out there.' If you throw strikes with all your pitches, who cares how old you are."
Friedman also confirmed that Hope would get the start in Friday's semifinal, while Reeves would get the ball on Saturday, whether the Vikes are playing in the 7 p.m. third-place game, or the 4 p.m. Class 4 state championship game.
"Yep, we'll have a freshman pitching the state championship game if we get there," the coach said. "And I'm totally cool with that."
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INSIDE LOOK AT THE FOUR BASEBALL SEMI-FINALISTS
Parkway North Vikings
Coach: Fred Friedman
How they got here: Won Class 4 District 7, then defeated Ft. Zumwalt South 11-1 in sectionals and SLUH 6-1 in quarterfinals.
Top hitters: CF Michael Bozarth, Sr. (.515 batting average, 26 RBIs, 23 SBs); DH Justin Campbell, Jr. (.352 ba, 2 HRs, 39 RBIs); C Garrett Taylor, Soph. (.352 ba, 22 RBIs).
Top pitchers: RHP Joey Hope, Soph. (6-1, 3.77 ERA); LHP Joey Reeves, Frosh. (3-0, 1.43 ERA); Connor Ladig (6-1, 2.72 ERA).
Semifinal matchup: will play Willard (MO) in semifinal #2 at Meador Park in Springfield, MO, Friday, June 1, at 7 p.m.
Coach: Scott McGee
How they got here: Won Class 4 District 12, then defeated Nixa 5-2 in sectionals and Helias Catholic 6-5 in 8 innings in quarterfinals.
Top hitters: IF Kolton Anderson, Sr.; IF Trevor Bowling, Jr.; C Tyler Hampton, Sr; 1B/OF Ryan Stewart, Sr.
Top pitchers: LHP Austin Reaves, Jr. (4-0) ; RHP Anthony Caenepeel (8-3, 1.75 ERA, 74 Ks in 62.0 IP).
Semifinal matchup: will play Parkway North in semifinal #2 at Meador Park in Springfield, MO, Friday, June 1, at 7 p.m.
Rockwood Summit Falcons
Coach: Ken Droege
How they got here: Won Class 4 District 3, then defeated Parkway South 7-3 in sectionals and Cape Girardeau Central 13-2 in quarterfinals.
Top hitters: Matt Kaysinger (.422 ba, 1 HR, 12 RBIs); Nick Bamvakais (.419 ba, 1 HR, 14 RBIs); Eric Beisel (.309 ba, 4 HR, 19 RBIs).
Top pitchers: Rudy May (6-2, 0.65 ERA, 40 Ks in 43.1 IP); Joey Schenck (5-2, 3.19 ERA, 2 SVs, 63 Ks in 57.0 IP); Brian Quasebarth (5-5, 3.63 ERA, 55 Ks in 54.0 IP).
Semifinal matchup: will play Liberty (MO) in semifinal #1 at Meador Park in Springfield, MO, Friday, June 1, at 4 p.m.
Liberty Blue Jays
Coach: Kirk Bragg
How they got here: Won Class 4 District 16, then defeated Winnetonka 6-0 in sectionals and Rockhurst 4-2 in quarterfinals.
Rankings: #1 in Missouri, #34 in ESPN Rise national baseball poll.
Top hitters: CF Lucas Norton, Sr; LF Wes Jones, Sr.
Top pitchers: RHP Rob Henrichs, Sr; RHP Spencer Schwandt, Sr.
Semifinal matchup: will play Rockwood Summit in semifinal #1 at Meador Park in Springfield, MO, Friday, June 1, at 4 p.m.
FINAL FOUR SCHEDULE
Semifinal #1 -- Friday, June 1, Rockwood Summit vs. Liberty 4 pm
Semifinal #2 -- Friday, June 1, Parkway North vs. Willard 7 pm
Championship Game -- Saturday, June 2 -- Meador Park 4 pm
3rd-Place Game -- Saturday, June 2 -- Meador Park 7 pm