Unsigned Senior Spotlight: MIF Zach Bailey

By Spencer Flaten 

When Janesville Parker finished 2nd place in the Big Eight conference and made a run to the state semifinals last season, many people were surprised. Parker shortstop Zach Bailey (2015) was not one of them.

“I still remember talking with my teammate Brock Welch in early March during gym class. We were looking up at the 1977 Parker state champion plaque and players' pictures and talking about how cool it would be to have our pictures hanging up there. There are 4 state champion plaques hanging in our gym,” Bailey said. “We wanted to change that.”Zach Bailey

They may not have added a fifth plaque, but they came close.

Bailey, a varsity player since late in his freshman year, has been a mainstay up the middle of the diamond for Parker throughout his career. As a freshman, he was called up midway through the season and earned a starting spot by the end of the year. He opened some eyes during his sophomore year, playing well enough to be named honorable mention on the all-Big 8 team. However, his junior year may have been his most memorable one to date.

Parker finished the season with a record of 23-5, getting knocked out in the final four of the state tournament in extra innings by Sun Prairie, the eventual champions. Often hitting in the 2-hole for the Vikings, Bailey batted .247 over the course of the year, knocking in 14 runs and hitting one home run (which was a game-winner in extra innings against top ranked Sun Prairie). His effort earned him the honor of 2nd team all-Big 8. It was a great season for both Bailey and Parker, even if the final loss stung a little.

“The Sun Prairie loss hurt,” Bailey said, “but a few days later when you could actually look back at the season and state, it was an absolute honor to be able to receive a state bid and play at the state tournament. It's something that stays with you for the rest of your life.”

In the summer, playing for the Rawlings Hitters (one of the top baseball academies in Wisconsin), Bailey batted .260 and knocked in 9 runs against the top competition in the Midwest. It was an experience that really helped him grow as a player, he said.

“Their staff is unbelievable and RJ [Fergus, the Hitters head coach] has unreal connections. All Hitters events were filled with great exposure. Hitters shows you the right way to play and expects the very best out of you. They show you what baseball is going to be like at the next level,” he said. “The coaching staff does it right at Hitters and I highly recommend them to every player.”

His baseball I.Q. is something that Bailey prides himself on, and he believes it’s a key factor in his success.

“My knowledge of the game helps me to always be 2 plays ahead of what is going on so that I can do my best to help prepare all the other players to do the same,” he explained.

He also tries to be a leader on and off the field. This was not lost on spectators at the state tournament, several of whom commented on his communication and energy on the field.

“I have always been the kid to pick anybody up, cheer anybody on, and help anybody out on the field. That's how I was taught and that's how I've played since I was 8 years old,” he said.

As he looks ahead to his college days, Bailey will have some big decisions to make. Over the course of the summer and early fall, the recruiting process for Bailey sped up rapidly. The University of Illinois-Springfield and UW-La Crosse have been the major players in Bailey’s recruitment, and Saint Louis University has shown a little interest as well.

“UW-La Crosse was the first to show interest in me after the WIAA State Tournament and then UIS started contacting me in early July. After the Hitters event in August, they started showing great interest in me and eventually I went on a visit,” he said.

Looking forward to next season, Bailey is realistic, yet optimistic. Even though graduation hit Parker hard, he thinks they have the potential to do big things.

“We did lose 7 seniors and 5 of those [were] everyday starters. That'll hurt. But we also do return 5 [key contributors]. There definitely will be some holes to fill but that goes for every high school team. I believe that we have good young players coming up, including a few very talented freshmen that could be beneficial for our team next year. I have no reason to doubt that there’s a chance that we could do what we did last year. All of our players show a very hard work ethic, and with a taste of state, I think there are a lot of guys, including myself, who are hungry to get back up there. I'm not guaranteeing anything, but I have confidence that Parker has a chance to get up there again.”

Article written by Spencer Flaten, publisher of Wisconsin Ball Battles.

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