The play of underclassmen, such as Nick Sailer (above), has helped Coleman extend its M&O Conference baseball win streak to 30.  EagleHerald/Jody Korch
The play of underclassmen, such as Nick Sailer (above), has helped Coleman extend its M&O Conference baseball win streak to 30.
EagleHerald/Jody Korch
COLEMAN - The Coleman baseball team has scored a perfect 10 for three straight seasons.

Perfection - as in 10-0 records in the M&O Conference in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

"That's pretty remarkable," Coleman coach Kent Casper said. "You look at good athletes, obviously, and the kids love to win. That's the bottom line. Every time they go out there they expect to win."

The Cougars last lost a conference game on May 17, 2010, a 6-5 loss to Wausaukee. That year, the Cougars finished 14-7 overall, 5-3 in the M&O, and Peshtigo ran the table for a 10-0 M&O season. The year before that, Coleman went unbeaten in M&O play.

This year's Cougars weren't expected to dominate the league the way the past two teams did. Coleman advanced to the Division 3 state tourney in 2011 and won the Division 4 state title in 2012. But just three starters returned, and questions outnumbered the answers entering the season.

The M&O sent three teams - Crivitz, Wausaukee and Coleman - to sectionals last season. Peshtigo, Wausaukee and Crivitz returned most of their lineups and have played pretty well this spring. You could excuse Casper for picking Peshtigo as the M&O team to beat.

"I was being honest," Casper said. "I didn't know what to expect."

Seniors Mason Mergener and Derek Marquardt give the Cougars a great pitching tandem. Trevor Seewald - the only other returning starter - has elevated his play in every sport ever since his 4 for 5 performance in last year's baseball state title game.

But the rest of the starting lineup was new. Role players last season, Dexter Karban and Jackson Margis have become key components. Senior outfielder Mitch Woulf rode the pines the past couple of seasons. Now, he's contributing with his bat.

Underclassmen have answered many of the questions with an exclamation mark. Sophomore Alex Stodola is playing well at catcher. Freshmen Blake Margis and Nick Sailer have been infield starters since opening day. Freshmen Darick Teteak and Hunter Stodola have played well in the outfield.

"They have stepped up and gone right along with juniors and seniors," Casper said. "Everybody has come through doing their part. Obviously the pitching is definitely the key, but the boys have come around with the bats. We're getting a little but more than I thought."

This year's perfect run through the M&O has been no cakewalk. The Cougars won one-run games against Peshtigo and Wausaukee, and they beat Crivitz 5-3.

"When you're going into a tournament, to be in those situations, and we have come from behind, it hasn't bothered them," Casper said. "That's also been very exciting to see. You like that as a coach - they just battle."

The Cougars, 13-1 overall, will play host to Stephenson on Friday, Gibraltar Saturday and Algoma on Tuesday.

Coleman is back in Division 3 for the postseason, which begins on May 24, and the Cougars are the hosts for sectional play on June 4.

"We do need to play better defense," according to Casper. "At times we have not play as well as we should have."