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Braves expecting another successful season

Bob Lusti will be among six seniors being counted on to lead the Menahga baseball team this spring.

     Charlie Dormanen is looking for the Menahga baseball team to peak at the end of the season and make another run at qualifying for the state Class A tournament.

     Last season, the Braves earned the No. 2 seed in the north for the Section 6A tournament and won four playoff games before settling for third place and a 14-7 overall record. Dormanen feels his team has the talent to push New York Mills for the Park Region Conference and Section 6A titles.

     The Braves have three key spots to replace with the graduation of Stetson Burkman, Brandon Junes and Frank Moren. Burkman hit .338 with 13 runs and 14 RBI, Junes batted .193 with nine runs and 10 RBI and Moren batted .302 with 20 runs and 14 RBI. Burkman also went 3-2 with two saves and a 3.33 ERA in 13 games and Junes went 2-2 with a 3.50 ERA in four games. Moren was an all-conference player while Burkman earned all-conference honorable mention honors.

     Leading the Braves this season are the seven returning letterwinners: seniors Bob Lusti, Ray Mueller, Levi Schwartz and CJ Maki; juniors Nick Meyer and Kyle Skoog; and freshman Al Pietila. Competing for starting spots will be senior Anders Tolkkinen; sophomores Darien Mickelson, Charles Haataja and Joe Keranen; and freshmen Isaac Anderson, Mitch Peterson, Canton Matson, Charlie Steidler-Thompson, Damon Howard and Logan Schoon.

     Lusti, Schwartz and Mueller earned all-conference honors in helping the Braves go 8-4 to finish second in the Park Region Conference behind New York Mills’ 11-1 mark.

     Returning to lead the pitching staff are Lusti, Schwartz, Skoog and Meyer. Lusti led the Braves with a 7-1 record and 1.58 ERA. In 53 innings, Lusti struck out 78 and walked 11 with 45 hits and 12 earned runs. Schwartz went 0-1 with a 7.80 ERA, allowing 19 hits and 13 earned runs with 11 strikeouts and 16 walks. Skoog pitched 3 1/3 innings and gave up six earned runs on six hits with a 0-1 record and 12.60 ERA. Meyer had a 2.33 ERA, allowing one earned run on six hits and two strikeouts in 3 innings.

     Offensively, the Braves will rely on Schwartz (.403 average, four home runs, 14 runs, 17 RBI), Lusti (.319 average, 16 runs, 20 RBI), Mueller (.322 average, five homers, 15 runs, 21 RBI), Skoog (.231 average, seven runs) and Pietila (.240 average).

     Defensively, the Braves will feature Mueller at first base, Pietila at second base, Lusti and Schwartz at shortstop, Tolkkinen at third base, Maki, Meyer and Skoog in the outfield, and Anderson at catcher. Vying for starting spots will be Cole Schoon, Haataja and Matson in the outfield with Mickelson, Keranen, Peterson, Steidler-Thompson, Howard and Logan Schoon providing depth in the infield.

     “If the young players improve and we stay healthy, we should compete in the conference and section,” said Dormanen, who will be assisted by Scott Petrowski and Jeremy Nordick.