When Diana Parker talks about taking things one step at a time, she’s just not speaking in cliches.
Before this season Parker — senior star for the Delsea softball team — and her dad, Eric, mapped out a schedule tracing where her swing was at the beginning of the regular season and where she wanted it to be by the end.
“We watched film of my swing,” she said. “And we actually made a timeline breaking down my swing and the adjustments I wanted to make. And right now I’m pretty much at my goal of where I want to be with my hands, where I’m at with my load and things like that.
“The idea was introduce one adjustment at a time. It’s about staying patient, not getting ahead of yourself and building muscle memory.”
Really, it’s a window into the work ethic that explains Parker’s otherworldly production.
She’s batting .406. And, as planned, she’s gotten better through each phase of the season, recording an extra base hit in six of her previous nine games.
And then there’s her defense.
By trade, Parker is a utility infielder. She said she likes playing the infield and how it keeps her on her toes every pitch.
But this season, she has been Delsea’s primary pitcher.
And she has allowed just nine earned runs in 127 innings. She has notched 207 strikeouts and let up just 64 hits for a Delsea team primed for a showdown with Cherry Hill West in Thursday’s South Jersey Group 3 semifinals.
And still, Parker insists, pitcher is not her primary position.
“It’s fun because it keeps you involved with every pitch — but I’ve always just believed in doing whatever it takes to help the team win,” she said.
Parker’s approach in the circle is not too different from her approach at the plate.
She has been working on one pitch at a time, and has recently put more emphasis on her off-speed pitches.
The work is paying dividends. Her arsenal, combined with her chemistry with catcher Gianna Cava — the two call their own pitches — has been impossible for most teams to crack.
“And I’ve been getting feedback from all the girls on the team,” she said. “And [Parker and Cava] use that feedback to come up with a plan on how we can execute as a unit.”
Some of the success, of course, just comes down to Parker’s dominance. And on that, she added:
“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I always go into every situation, whether its in the box or on the field, knowing that, in my heart, I’m not going to let someone else beat me,” said Parker, a Campbell University recruit. “And if they win an at-bat, so be it, but they won’t win the next one.”
Parker grew up around the game and figures she probably first saw a softball field when she was about a month old at her parents’ slow-pitch softball tournaments.
Her parents are both athletes, and her mom, Cindy, played the sport in college.
Today, Parker said her parents are still her biggest supporters. And the three regularly work out after Delsea games or practices. Parker’s dad will hit grounders and her mom will play first base.
That work ethic, according to Delsea coach Scott Gutelius, is infectious on his team. “She’s one of the best leaders I’ve had in 12 years of being the head coach,” Gutelius said.
Parker’s love of the game stands out. And she said she loves her teammates and that this year the team is jelling like she’s never seen before.
“Everybody knows their role and everybody is doing their job and the communication is there in practice and games,” she said. “All the girls are working hard.”
Recently, Parker actually got emotional when asked to comment on the fact that this is her last stretch as a Delsea softball player. It was as if she hadn’t fully considered it yet, as if she truly was just laser focused on one game, one improvement at a time.
She had to take a moment to compose herself. And the answer she gave would sound cliche from most people. But from Parker, it was fitting.