Menahga's remarkable run in the Section 5A baseball tournament continues.
A dominating 16-0 five-inning victory over Hinckley-Finlayson at Pierz on Wednesday (June 5) sent the Braves to the section finals against Sebeka. That was the fourth consecutive elimination game Menahga survived.
The Braves entered the postseason after posting only three wins during the regular season. The No. 6 seed in the West peaked at the right time as five victories in the playoffs have Menahga two wins away from earning a trip to the state Class A tournament.
Sebeka (the No. 1 seed in the West) will enter the section finals against Menahga at Pierz on Thursday night (June 6) undefeated in the double-elimination tournament. Menahga has to defeat Sebeka twice to advance to state.
"If someone would have told me that we would be playing for the section championship and a chance to go to state I would have said they were crazy. We didn't win a game last year and our first win this year came when our record was 0-12-1. Coming into the season we were just looking to end the losing streak. We were taking it one game at a time just trying to get that first win. We battled hard this season and came up just short in a lot of games, but once we got that first win we didn't look back," said Menahga head coach Nick Jasmer. "Am I surprised? Yes, but I honestly think everyone is. Even the players. But we also have a great group of hard-working and competitive guys that knew what they had to do to get to where we are today. We are in the section finals because even in the losses, we never gave up on ourselves. These young men have done something that a lot would call amazing and maybe even a miracle, but what I call it is hard work, dedication, focus, competitiveness and, most importantly, having fun."
Thomas Litzau threw a two-hitter with one walk and nine strikeouts and was supported by a 14-hit offensive attack as the Braves advanced to the section championship by shutting out Hinckley-Finlayson.
Menahga jumped out to a 2-0 lead before ending this game early via the 10-run rule by scoring nine times in the fourth and five times in the fifth.
Seven different players had two hits with Litzau (2 for 3, one run, two RBI), Lars Keranen (2 for 4, two runs, three RBI), Corey Haataja (2 for 3, one run, one RBI), Ivan Anderson (2 for 4, one run, four RBI), Charlie Hodge (2 for 3, two runs, one RBI), Nolan Haataja (2 for 4, one run, one RBI) and Eddie Salmen (2 for 3, one run, one RBI) leading the way. The Braves had six extra-base hits with Litzau blasting a triple and a double, Corey Haataja and Anderson belting triples, and Keranen and Salmen contributing doubles.
Jack Pietila scored three runs, Sam Jackola scored two runs, Ethan Hendrickson scored a run, Brock Kako scored a run and Henry Salmen drove in a run as the Braves improved to 8-13-1.
Hinckley-Finlayson, the No. 1 seed in the East, ended the season with a 12-7 record.
Menahga started its remarkable playoff run by rebounding from an 11-1 loss to Nevis in the second round of the tournament to eliminate Hill City/Northland 5-0 at Hill City on May 29, Nevis 13-10 at Nevis on May 30 and Braham 11-1 at Pierz on June 3 before ousting Hinckley-Finlayson.
Keranen pitched a four-hit shutout as Menahga eliminated Hill City/Northland.
Keranen walked three and struck out four in the complete-game win. Menahga scored single runs in the first and third innings before sealing the win by scoring twice in the sixth and once in the seventh.
Menahga finished with seven hits with Anderson leading the way by going 3 for 4 with a double, a run scored and two RBI. Keranen (1 for 3, two runs), Henry Salmen (1 for 4), Corey Haataja (1 for 2, one run) and Eddie Salmen (1 for 2, one RBI) had the other hits while Pietila scored the other run.
Hill City, the No. 5 seed in the West, ended the season with a 6-13 record. Both teams left seven runners on base.
The Braves avenged the loss to Nevis earlier in the tournament by rallying for a 13-10 win in the rematch.
The Tigers held leads of 6-0 and 8-4 before Menahga scored five times in the fifth. After Nevis reclaimed a 10-9 lead, the Braves scored four times in the seventh to advance. Nevis scored four runs in the first, two runs in the second, single runs in the third and fourth, and two runs in the fifth.
Corey Haataja went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles, two runs and two RBI; Keranen went 2 for 4 with two runs; and Pietila went 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI to pace Menahga's 12-hit offensive attack. Litzau (1 for 2, one run, two RBI), Nolan Haataja (1 for 3, one run, two RBI), Eddie Salmen (1 for 4, one run, one RBI), Hodge (1 for 2 with a home run, two runs, two RBI) and Hendrickson (1 for 3, one run) also contributed to Menahga's balanced offense, which also featured five stolen bases. The Braves left 10 runners on base.
Litzau earned the win in relief, allowing two unearned runs on three hits and one walk in three innings. Corey Haataja started and gave up six runs (two earned) on three hits and three walks in 1 ⅓ innings while Nolan Haataja pitched 2 ⅔ innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and three walks.
Leading the offense for Nevis (the No. 2 seed in the West) were Dan Mistic (3 for 5 with a double and a triple, three runs) and Cain Mitchell (2 for 5, one run). Rounding out the Tigers' nine-hit attack were Dan Aman (1 for 2), Ward Davis (1 for 4, one run), Derek Lindow (1 for 4, one run) and Shep Davis (1 for 4 with a double, one run, two RBI). Reese Kline scored two runs and Ethan Tauber scored a run as the Tigers stranded nine runners on base.
Tommy Gust started and allowed seven runs (five earned) on five hits and five walks. Mistic (two runs on two hits and two walks), Mitchell (two strikeouts in a scoreless inning), Ward Davis (two runs on four hits in one inning) and Wyatt Rech (two runs on one hit and three walks in one inning) also pitched with Rech taking the loss.
"Our keys to winning these last games were confidence, composer and being competitive, especially in the second game against Nevis. Being down 6-0 in the second inning, you would have thought we would have hung our heads low and thought that we were done. But that wasn't the case. My guys picked their heads up and continued to play hard and compete to come back for the win," said Jasmer. "We didn't give up on ourselves. We knew what we were capable of doing. We just had to refocus and put it in the past."
Keranen, Sam Jackola and Litzau combined on a two-hitter as the Braves eliminated Braham.
Braham, the No. 2 seed in the East, took a 1-0 lead in the second before the Braves controlled the rest of the game by scoring three times in the fourth, three times in the sixth and five times in the seventh.
Menahga pounded out 13 hits with Pietila (2 for 5, two RBI), Anderson (2 for 5, one run), Litzau (2 for 4, one run), Eddie Salmen (2 for 4, two runs, one RBI), Hendrickson (2 for 4, one run) and Hodge (1 for 2, one run, two RBI) leading the way. Keranen (1 for 4, one RBI) and Corey Haataja (1 for 1 with a double, two runs) had the other hits while Jackola and Henry Salmen scored a run apiece. The Braves also stole seven bases.
Keranen pitched six innings, allowing one run on two hits and five walks while striking out seven for the win. Jackola faced two batters (walking one) and Litzau faced two batters (striking out one) in the seventh. Those three pitchers stranded nine runners on base.
Braham ended the season with a 14-5 record.
After opening the playoffs with two wins, Nevis was eliminated from the playoffs with a 5-2 loss at Sebeka on May 29 and the loss to Menahga.
Sebeka took a 3-0 lead with single runs in the first, second and fifth innings. The Tigers made it 3-2 by scoring twice in the sixth before Sebeka sealed the win with two runs in the bottom of that inning.
Shep Davis and Mitchell drove in Mistic and Lindow in the sixth to account for the Tigers' two runs.
Nevis finished with six hits with Mistic and Aman both going 2 for 3. Kline and Mitchell had the other hits for the Tigers, who ended the season with an 11-11 record.
Shep Davis suffered the loss, allowing three runs on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts over five innings. Rech allowed two runs on two hits and two walks in the sixth.