After tough transition from juco, Parks now finding way

Lisa Parks led the nation with 29 home runs in junior college last season.

Emily Wickstrom

Minnesota softball player Lisa Parks is a two-time All-American.

But that was in junior college.

The Gophers junior third baseman tasted her share of success in two seasons at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz.

Last year at Pima, Parks batted .518 with a nation-leading 102 RBIs to go along with 29 home runs.

But her desire to play at the Division I level brought her to Minnesota, where the transition in the batter’s box hasn’t been as smooth as she’d like.

“My timing’s been off,” Parks said. “It’s been a little different adjusting, but I’m starting to come around.”

For the Gophers so far, Parks is hitting fourth and batting .200. That average may be deceiving, however, as she still leads the team in home runs (four), RBIs (15) and walks (17) and is second to Megan Higginbotham with a .400 slugging percentage.

But Minnesota co-coach Lisa Bernstein said there is still much more to come.

“She’s got a ton of power,” Bernstein said. “When I pitch to her in the batting cages, sometimes I don’t see the ball it comes off so fast. She can break a screen – she’s that powerful of a hitter.”

Even through Parks’ struggles, teammate Rene Konderik said it was only a matter of time before she starting hitting well.

“The hype of her coming from a junior college, where she was a stud, will come into play here eventually,” Konderik said. “But obviously it does take time. I think she’s taking it all in stride. She’s doing a good job of keeping a steady head.”

Bernstein said whether Parks is hitting or not, one of her advantages on opponents is her 6-foot tall frame.

“(Pitchers) get in there and see someone of her size at the plate,” Bernstein said. “I wouldn’t want to pitch to her. Hopefully opposing defenses and coaches see the same thing.”

Parks said inserting that size between Higginbotham, who leads the Gophers with a .355 batting average, and Valerie Alston makes a touch decision for opposing pitchers.

“It’s pretty much just pick your poison with Val hitting behind me,” Parks said. “Who do you want to pitch to out of the three of us? It’s a no-win situation for (opponents).”

Bernstein said Parks has worked to improve her swing in hopes of having better success against Big Ten pitchers.

“We made a couple mechanical changes,” Bernstein said. “She’s doing something a bit different where she’s staying behind her swing a little more.

“She’s feeling confident at the plate, she’s feeling aggressive and she’s intimidating.”

And to go along with that size and power, Parks showed signs of a climbing batting average last weekend at Wisconsin, going 4-for-7 with two RBIs and a home run.

“That’s finally the swing that I had last year and I finally found it again,” Parks said. “Hopefully I’ll keep it.”