Lincoln East has a ball club, and it’s on a roll.
Behind solid pitching and hitting, the Spartans are off to a very strong start and are undefeated at 8-0. Third-year head coach Mychal Lanik said it’s definitely one of the top team’s he’s coached from a talent perspective.
If one looks up and down the lineup, contributions have come from everywhere. The depth on offense has been a pleasant surprise, Lanik said.
“We’re having really good at-bats and we’re putting the ball in play,” Lanik said. “I think we’re averaging something like two-and-a-half strikeouts per game, which is a really good number for us. We’re just doing the little things right offensively.”
Going into this past Monday’s game against Grand Island at Sherman Field in Lincoln, a contest which the Spartans won 11-1 in five innings, East had 10 players batting over .400. Lanik knows that average will go down with playing more games, but he still loves what he’s seeing from his guys in the box.
Junior Cooper Erikson was recently the Player of the Week in the state and is hitting over .700 with a couple home runs. Junior lead-off man Jaelyn Welch has been getting on base about 700-percent of the time according to Lanik. The list goes on.
“Charlie Mosser is having a really great start, he’s hitting .538 with three doubles,” Lanik said. “Austin Schneider is a mainstay in the middle of the lineup for us — he has five extra-base hits already. Keegan Brink has been a very pleasant surprise offensively — he has two home runs and two triples in seven games. Then guys like Ryan Clementi and Noah Walters and Grant Springer have been doing a great job, too.”
The bats have produced. Through eight games, East has scored 100 runs. The offense has plated double-digit runs in all but one game.
But the pitching has been stellar, too. East has only allowed 15 runs. There’s a wealth of talent for Lanik to work with on the mound — seven or eight arms that he feels confident in.
Mosser, a senior, and Jalen Worthley, a junior, are both 2-0. Senior righty Sam Wragge got the ball against Grand Island and picked up his second win of the season while recording seven strikeouts with zero walks. Clementi is another starter — Lanik said he pitched really well in a win over Pius X.
Springer and Keinan Lentell have been coming out of the bullpen, and Lanik said those two have been given leads and they’ve held them for wins.
“We’ve had guys just attack the strike zone so well early in the year, and that’s made it tough for opposing hitters,” Lanik said. “We’ve always felt good about our pitching depth and our pitching depth has been as advertised. We’re challenging hitters and it’s allowing us to play fast on defense.”
East is doing all this without one of its top players in Brady Bell, who is out of the season with an injury he suffered in January workouts. Lanik said he’s one of the more versatile players to come through the state in some time. Bell is a Division I recruit as a catcher, but also has a 90-91-mile-per-hour arm as a pitcher and is an all-state-level hitter as a sophomore and junior.
“He wore so many hats for us, that when he went down it was really difficult for us to replace everything that he does everywhere on the field,” Lanik said of Bell. “He just has a nose for the game and where the ball needs to go, and that’s still something we’re trying to replace but others have stepped up well so far.”
Although expectations are high, Lanik says his group of seniors are going about this good start the correct way. They know that being 8-0 doesn’t give anyone an automatic qualification for the state tournament. They also know the road will keep getting tougher — of East’s eight wins, none have come against teams that currently have a record above .500 as of Tuesday morning.
“The next day is the most important to us. We just have to be ready — every day after we play the games there’s a list of things we have to work on,” Lanik said. “We have to get better. There are some things we have to get better at defensively, and our bats are really going to be tested in the next two weeks with the quality of pitching we’re going to see. We know we’ll get a lot of teams’ best shots, and that’s good for us and it’ll prepare us.”