Granite City dealing with injuries to top players

News-DemocratMay 12, 2014 

Losing any starter to injury during the season is tough.

What the Granite City Warriors are being forced to endure is an entirely different predicament with the loss of No. 1 pitcher Austin Buzick and No. 2 pitcher and cleanup hitter Ryan Steen.

Both were injured in the span of a few games recently for the Warriors, 12-17 overall and 5-6 in the Southwestern Conference.

Busick, a senior, suffered an elbow injury while pitching against O'Fallon. Steen sustained a possible fracture of the hamate bone in his wrist while sliding into third base against Belleville East.

Both are out for the season, according to Granite City coach John Moad.

"Not only did we lose our No. 1 and 2 pitcher, we lost our No. 4 hitter," Moad said. "These last two weeks have not been very kind to Granite City baseball."

Moad's message to his team was don't lose any time feeling sorry for yourselves or making excuses. There's plenty of season remaining.

"You can feel sorry for yourself or you can take it as an opportunity for other guys to step up," Moad said. "Obviously we're not as good without those guys, but we're still capable and we have some good players."

Buzick, who signed with McKendree, was hurt last Tuesday while pitching to O'Fallon's fourth batter.

"He felt a little pop in his elbow and that's never a good thing," Moad said. "We went the cautious route and he went to a couple doctors; both doctors agreed there's a tear in there (his ulnar collateral ligament)."

Moad said no Tommy John surgery is planned for now.

"They're going to try to rehab it and not do the surgery," Moad said. "He may have dodged a bullet, so hopefully he can rehab it and get it strong and go on to have great career at McKendree. It's a big blow to us because he could throw his name into the hat for best pitcher in the conference up to this point."

Buzick's ERA of 0.32 is the best in the metro-east and third lowest in the entire St. Louis region. He is 4-1 with 60 strikeouts in 44 innings.

"He's legit and I said at the start of the season that McKendree was getting an absolute steal with this kid," Moad said. "He was having the year I thought he would have and unfortunately, this injury occurred. It's definitely something no coach wants to go through.

"The hardest part is seeing Austin not be able to finish his senior year. That's the tough part."

Steen, a junior, was hitting .366 with five doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs. As a pitcher, he was 0-4 with a 5.08 ERA.

Moad said Steen's wrist will be in a cast for at least four weeks.

"They want to be conservative there and I don't blame them," Moad said.

Gabe Jarman, also the school's football quarterback, is 2-4. He has been elevated from the No. 3 spot in the rotation to the top and Moad has been using a committee approach on the mound with so many innings gone from the staff.

Austin Middleton (2-3, 3.54 ERA), Leo Kelly (2-1, 2.85 ERA) and others are helping out.

"We're kind of patch-working games together," Moad said. "We threw five guys against Jerseyville. It's going to take that kind of effort -- and that's good in high school where you don't give teams a chance to see the same guy twice. We've got a lot of arms."

Spanberger still strong

Granite City senior Chad Spanberger has been moved from catcher to shortstop, but there's no mistaking his prowess as a hitter. The Arkansas recruit and potential draft pick simply doesn't see many pitches to hit -- and still is at .416 with six doubles, four triples, three homers and 22 RBIs.

"His stats are misleading because they could be so much better," Moad said. "Teams pitch him completely differently. Even when teams are not intentionally walking him, they're not giving him anything to hit."

Moad said Spanberger has struggled at times with frustration, wanting to swing at anything close to the plate.

"When you're 17 years old and you're going through that, there's some pressure on you," Moad said. "He's expanded his zone at times, but he's dealt with it pretty good. He's become a big-time leader for us."

Granite City's top average belongs to junior first baseman Bruce Drennan, hitting .451 with seven doubles, one home run and a team-leading 26 RBIs. Junior outfielder D.J. Miller is at .352 with 11 doubles, two triples, one homer and 13 RBIs along with a team-best 33 runs scored.

Waterloo's Vogel nears milestone

With games nearly every day this week, Waterloo Bulldogs coach Mark Vogel should have an opportunity to pick up career win No. 400. The former Waterloo High, Kaskaskia College and Northern Iowa infielder picked up No. 398 Monday as Jeremy Rettig fired a two-hit shutout with five strikeouts to beat Mississippi Valley Conference leader Mascoutah 4-0.

However, it's not an easy week for the Bulldogs with another MVC game against Highland, nonconference games with Althoff and Granite City and the Monroe County Tournament on Saturday.

"With that schedule, who knows," Vogel said. "It's a hard team to figure out this year. Usually you've got a pretty good handle on things, but this has been tough.

"I've started to play some younger guys and they've started to produce a little bit and that adds another dynamic."

Among the recent promotions were sophomore first baseman-third baseman Tyler McAlister, sophomore shortstop-third base Kane Osterhage and freshman outfielder Hayden Bender.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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