Viking players and coaches were ready to play ball

Vernon. Although the spring high school sports season may not take place in New Jersey due to the coronavirus, the student athletes and coaches who participate in springtime indoor and outdoor athletics deserve recognition.

Vernon /
| 13 Jul 2020 | 04:20

As a former standout at Vernon High School, Stephen Myhren knows what it’s like to don the Viking baseball uniform and step out onto the field ready for competition.

After a successful career as both an athlete and assistant coach at Gordon College in Massachusetts, Myhren returns to Vernon for his first season at the helm as the head coach.

“Goal number one was to play a game,’’ Myhren said. “That is what we were all working for and getting ready for, to just get out together and play as a team. This team has put a lot of work in since the fall and were looking to get to be together on the field. This is my first year as the head coach of my alma mater, and I couldn’t be more proud of the whole program.

“Everyone is working hard, getting their work done and even helped create an encouraging video for our Little Leaguers. They’re putting together drills that Little Leaguers can do at home by themselves and sharing them through our Instagram page. This team was going to have a special year this year and everyone was looking forward to getting back on the field.’’

Student-athletes returning from a varsity roster that finished 13-8 and advanced to the NJSIAA North 1 Group 2 Sectional Tournament in 2019 included Jacob Buurman (pitcher/first base, senior), Nick Zinno (catcher/outfield, senior), Noah Franetovich (outfield, senior), Peter Parigi (outfield, senior), Frank Fogge (third base/pitcher, senior), DJ Springstead (center field/pitcher, junior) and John Kowalski (short stop/pitcher, sophomore).

Promising newcomers who looked to be contributors on the varsity level for the Vikings included David DeGeeter (second base, senior), Zach Lamb (pitcher, senior), Bobby Baumann (catcher/outfield, junior), Justin Pecoraro (pitcher/second base, junior), Zach Waschek (infield/outfield/pitcher, junior), Hunter Kitchell (pitcher, junior), Robert Watson (outfield/pitcher, junior), Matt Rogers (first base, sophomore) and Ryan Payne (designated hitter, sophomore).

“This team’s full of leaders,’’ Myhren said. “I saw different players leading in different ways. Senior captains Nick Zinno and Jacob Buurman have already shown great leadership, leading our fall service project where the whole program cleaned up the yards of a number of families in town. They have been reaching out to players to check in with them and make sure they are getting their schoolwork done and staying positive through this difficult time.

“DJ Springstead and Zach Waschek are two juniors who would’ve also help lead this team. DJ did a great job getting the guys hyped and ready on game days last season and I was looking for Zach to bring some of his quarterback leadership skills to the baseball field. After John Kowalski had one of the best seasons in school history as a freshman, he has been thrown into a leadership role as well-he shows up and takes care of business.’’

Vernon plays in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Colonial Division along with Kittatinny, Hopatcong, North Warren, Sussex Tech and Morris County Vo-Tech.

“We should absolutely be contending this year for the Division title, which would be our first since 2003,’’ Myhren said. “We fell short by one game last year, but with the combination of returning players with the newcomers we had a real chance to compete for the championship.

“Every team was going to be a team to beat this year for the Division. We missed out on winning the League by one game last year.’’

“This team’s full of leaders. I saw different players leading in different ways.” --Head Coach Stephen Myhren