BELOIT - If the Beloit Turner baseball team hasn't gotten used to playing with a target on its collective back, now is a perfect time to get comfortable with the favorite role.
The Trojans were ranked number one in the latest WIAA Division 2 WBCA rankings.
Tuesday afternoon in Clinton, the pesky Cougars hung around with the Trojans before a late barrage of runs gave Turner an 11-0 victory and a perfect 18-0 record on the season.
Turner coach Jeff Clowes is faced with an issue that all coaches would love to deal with: Making sure his undefeated team stays humble and focused as playoff season approaches.
"We have to stay sharp," Clowes said. "We are going to get every team's best shot, and that's exactly what we have to prepare for. You can't expect anyone to show up and just give you anything. You have to respect Clinton. They came out on their senior night and took a great shot at us. They've had some ups and downs this year, but they played really hard. We have to expect that out of everyone. We have to get back to the drawing board a little bit and find the fire."
Although the final score certainly doesn't reflect it, the game was competitive for the majority of the contest. The Cougars trailed just 2-0 in the sixth inning when a pair of critical two-out errors led to four Turner runs to put the game out of reach.
In the seventh, Kyle Hanaman stepped to the plate with the bases loaded, looking for his first hit of the day.
"I just wanted to avoid an 'o-for'," Hanaman said. "I wanted to hit it hard somewhere, I didn't care where it ended up." Where it ended up was just beyond the left field fence, giving the senior his first grand slam in his high school career.
Cory Walker was also a big part of the Trojans' offensive success with a pair of triples and three RBI, including a fifth-inning shot that gave the Trojans a 2-0 lead.
"It was kind of a war of attrition early on," Clowes said. "We were lunging at the baseball early and didn't have great approaches and popped it up a lot. You've got to give credit to Beals, he mixed in a changeup and kept us off-balanced. You just had the feeling we needed a big base hit or two to get us going, and Cory gave us those."
Beals allowed just one earned runs over six frames but took the loss as Clinton fell to 2-17.
"I knew coming into the game that I had to throw strikes and not give them a bunch of walks," Beals said. "It hurt me a little early, but I was able to stay focused and didn't let it bother me when they did score a run or two early."
Meanwhile, Preston Viens was doing his usual act on the mound, walking just one while striking out eight over six starling frames.
"Preston throws strikes and puts a lot of pressure on opponents," Clowes said. "He's going to pound the zone and pitch to contact. He's had a really good breaking ball all year and he's been able to keep us in every game."
Clinton coach Marc Montez said he's seen some positive things out of his young team. "We've got five sophomores on the team and just two seniors, so these guys are getting really good experience," Montez said. "This was something to build on. Turner has a great program, and we made a couple of mistakes, which you can't do against a great team like that."
• UP NEXT: The Trojans and Cougars will met again Thursday, this time in Beloit.
TURNER 11, CLINTON 0
TURNER 100 014 5 -- 11
CLINTON 000 000 0 -- 0
Pitchers (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO): Turner, Viens 6-5-0-0-1-9; Ries 1-1-0-0-0-1. Clinton: Beals 6-7-6-1-3-3; DuCharme .2-2-5-5-5-0; Dominy .1-0-0-0-0-0.
Leading hitters: Turner, Hanaman 2x4, HR, 5 RBI; Walker 2x3, 3 RBI, 2 3B; Clinton Howard 2x4, Holloway 1x2, 2B.