Inside Baseball: Spooner adjusting, piling up victoriesThey've won nine straight games since their only loss -- by one run to Superior -- on April 12. That streak includes a key 11-8, 8-2 sweep of fellow conference contender Cumberland on Friday.
By: By Justin Harings, The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Superior Telegram
Maybe this wasn't exactly the plan at Spooner. The results don't show it.
Even missing two top arms, the Rails have established themselves as the team to beat in the Heart O'North Conference -- and perhaps beyond.
"It's game by game," Spooner coach Matt Lucius said. "We're just trying to do like everybody does and get better every game out."
The Rails (11-1, 6-0) return six starters from the team that suffered a 12-2 loss to Ripon in the Division 2 state championship game last season. Now, they're listed at No. 4 in the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association's latest rankings.
They've won nine straight games since their only loss -- by one run to Superior -- on April 12. That streak includes a key 11-8, 8-2 sweep of fellow conference contender Cumberland on Friday.
"They stepped up and played to their potential," Lucius said. "That was a big building block for us. I want them to keep building on that and just keep getting better now."
Lucius, who has coached for 17 seasons and splits athletic director duties, was expecting Bryson Grubbs and Logan Anderson to eat innings on the mound.
But Grubbs -- slated to be the team's ace -- is recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in football season. He can play first base but won't be able to pitch.
And Anderson, a three-year starter at shortstop, underwent double hip surgery to clean out cartilage after football. He missed most of basketball season and, thanks to tendinitis in his knees, still isn't fully healthy.
Brandon Shutt, a senior, has taken over as the team's primary pitcher. Behind him, the Rails have turned to fellow seniors Cole Gauger, Ryle Holden and Bo Sahr for help on the mound.
"They're doing good," Lucius said. "They're doing just what I asked them. We're not going to go out and put a bunch of K's up on the board. We've been very good about not walking guys and letting the ball be put into play and letting the defense play behind them. So far, it's been going well."
The Rails, who played at Chetek-Weyerhaeuser Thursday, lead Hayward by one game in the conference standings. Those two are scheduled to play a doubleheader Saturday.
After losing to Altoona by one run in the 2010 sectional finals, last year's Rails broke through to state for the first time since 1996 -- the season before Lucius took over.
The program's other appearances at state came in 1951, 1960 and 1988. Now, these Rails are a candidate to add another.
"You always want to set those goals. The kids set them and stuff like that," Lucius said. "If they play together as a team, they can pretty much go beat everybody in the state that's thrown out at them."
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