Braves counting on an improved season

Nick Jasmer is predicting a year of experience will pay huge dividends this spring. A youthful group went 0-18 in Jasmer's first season as head coach of the Menahga baseball team last season. With that entire team returning, the Braves are planni...

Senior Lars Keranen will be one of the players being counted on to lead the Menahga baseball team this season. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Nick Jasmer is predicting a year of experience will pay huge dividends this spring.

A youthful group went 0-18 in Jasmer's first season as head coach of the Menahga baseball team last season. With that entire team returning, the Braves are planning to not go winless again this spring.

Being counted on to lead the Braves this spring are seniors Brock Kako, Lars Keranen and Thomas Litzau; juniors Corey Haataja and Patrick Simmons; sophomores Charlie Hodge, Jack Pietila, Sam Jackola and Eddie Salmen; and freshmen Ivan Anderson and Nolan Haataja.

"Last year did not go the way we wanted and we are looking to not repeat that," said Jasmer. "I have the same guys back, but this is a whole new year."

That group hit .171 as a team (with 71 hits and 119 strikeouts) and scored 32 runs (1.8 per game) while leaving 120 runners on base. The pitching staff had a 6.94 ERA, allowing 180 runs (10.0 per game) on 183 hits and 72 walks with 98 strikeouts. Defensively, the Braves made 66 errors that led to 72 unearned runs.


Returning to lead the offense are Litzau (14 hits in 52 at bats, four RBI, five runs scored in 18 games), Keranen (12 for 51 with three RBI and six runs in 18 games), Hodge (6 for 27 with two runs in 12 games), Anderson (6 for 31 with five RBI and three stolen bases in 13 games), Pietila (6 for 42 with two RBI and four runs in 17 games), Nolan Haataja (5 for 39 in 17 games), Simmons (4 for 22 in 10 games), Salmen (4 for 44 with two RBI in 18 games), Corey Haataja (3 for 31 with six runs and five steals in 16 games), Kako (six games) and Jackola (five games).

The pitching staff will feature Keranen (0-4, 4.50 ERA in 28 innings), Litzau (0-2, 4.74 ERA in 10.1 innings), Salmen (0-3, 6.86 ERA in 16.1 innings), Pietila (7.74 ERA in 6.1 innings), Nolan Haataja (0-2, 8.02 ERA in 18.1 innings) and Corey Haataja (0-3, 12.60 ERA in 8.1 innings).

"We have yet another young team with a lot of guys looking to pick up a starting spot. The three seniors look to lead this young team and everyone else is looking to secure another starting role," said Jasmer, who will be assisted by Scott Petrowski and Riley Massie. "We have some other younger guys who are showing some potential to maybe sneak into the lineup."

Looking to contend for varsity spots are junior Austin Grewe; sophomore Brett Stenersen; and freshmen Ethan Hendrickson, Aaron Pietila, Ted Jackola, Abram Josephson, Liam Torola, Henry Salmen and Leeroy Kicker.

"I see the strengths of my team in their defense. I have guys who will step out on the field and play lock-down defense for me. They aren't afraid to get dirty and make those tough plays that I need them to make. This year we are looking at eliminating the mental errors and bringing the bats to life at the plate," said Jasmer. "We simply need to get guys on, then over and in as well as make the plays out on defense. If we can do that, then we can hopefully string some wins together this year."

Last season, the Braves received the No. 8 seed in the West for the Section 5A tournament and opened with a 10-0 loss in six innings to No. 1 Nevis. Menahga went 0-14 in Park Region Conference play as Wadena-Deer Creek won the conference title at 13-1 with New York Mills following at 12-2 and Parkers Prairie and Pillager tying for third place with 8-6 records. Jasmer is looking for the Braves to improve their offensive and defensive numbers, be more competitive in the conference and end the team's 21-game losing streak.

"There are a lot of good teams in the conference and section; none of which we will take lightly when we play them. We will have to go out every game and play solid mistake-free baseball if we expect to win games this year," said Jasmer. "Our mindset is to take it one game at a time. My expectations for this season are that we are going to step out on the field to play hard and as smart as we can. The key will be staying focused, working hard and playing mistake-free baseball. These guys are even more determined this year to go out and get some wins for this program."



April 12 - vs. Pillager, 4:30 p.m. April 16 - vs. Wadena-Deer Creek, 4:30 p.m. April 18 - at Sebeka (2), 4 p.m. April 23 - vs. Parkers Prairie, 4:30 p.m. April 26 - vs. New York Mills, 4:30 p.m. April 30 - at Ottertail Central, 4:30 p.m.

May 3 - at Pillager, 4:30 p.m. May 7 - at Bertha-Hewitt, 4:30 p.m. May 10 - at Parkers Prairie, 4:30 p.m. May 14 - vs. Ottertail Central, 4:30 p.m. May 17 - at Bertha-Hewitt, 4:30 p.m.

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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