For the first time in four years Brainerd Warriors baseball coach Lowell Scearcy won't be able to write Joey Tautges or Mike Zauhar on his lineup card.
The former all-conference players are now at Waldorf College in Iowa and St. John's University in Collegeville, respectively. Who replaces them in the infield, behind the plate and on the mound will determine how successful the Warriors are.
Tautges, a shortstop, pitcher and catcher, led the team with a .429 average, 28 RBI and six home runs. He also went 3-0 on the mound and didn't allow an earned run.
Zauhar, who pitched and played infield, was second on the team in hitting and had a 1.62 ERA as a pitcher.
Brainerd will replace them with seven lettermen from a team that finished 17-7.
Senior right-hander Kevin Mertens heads the pitching staff. He was 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA, averaging nearly a strikeout per inning. Left-hander Drew Boland was 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA. He hit .343 with 13 RBI, five doubles and a triple.
Head coach -- Lowell Scearcy, 34th year (3 at Verndale, 31 at Brainerd)
Career record -- 483-206 (.701)
Record at Brainerd -- 445-198 (.692)
2002 record -- 10-4 CLC, 17-7 overall.
Returning letterwinners -- Kevin Mertens (p-of), Aaron Jenkins (3b-p), Chris Klabo (of-c), Tony Parrish (c-ss), Chad Weiss (2b-p), Fred Weiss (of).
Assistant coaches -- Keith Peterson, Jay Sannes, Dave Stengrim, Joel Lofstrom, Tony Bruno.
(5 p.m. Games unless noted.)
24-at St. Cloud Tech, 7 p.m.
29-at St. Cloud, 7 p.m.
2-at Princeton tournament, 4 p.m.
3-at Princeton tournament, 12:15/5 p.m.
9-BRD INV, 5 p.m.
10-BRD. INV., 11 a.m., 6:30 p.m.
13-ST. CLOUD TECH
15-at Sauk Rapids
"We've got one of the top pitchers back in Mertens, who should be one of the better pitchers in the area," Scearcy said. "Kevin will probably play outfield when he's not pitching. He's a good defensive outfielder.
"Drew pitched quite a bit last year. I'm sure he will pitch a lot again, plus he will be our regular first baseman. Drew was one of our better hitters last year. He will bat somewhere between first and third again."
Seniors Chad Weiss and Aaron Jenkins are vying to join the rotation. Weiss was 0-1 in 9 1/3 innings with a 2.90 ERA and hit .333 with 12 RBI and five doubles. Jenkins was 1-0 and didn't permit an earned run in 6 2/3 innings.
"One of the things we're looking at is where to have Chad play defensively," Scearcy said. "He can play infield and outfield. We've even thought of trying him as a catcher. He's caught for summer and amateur teams. He will be one of our better hitters and one of our top three pitchers.
"Aaron will play third base and has been throwing the ball well. We hope he's going to be one of the guys we can count on. It usually takes us about six pitchers to handle the load."
Junior left-hander Blake Eller and junior right-hander Justin Huether are other pitching prospects.
Offensively, the Warriors appear in good shape with three seniors, outfielder-catcher Chris Klabo, catcher-shortstop Tony Parrish and outfielder Fred Weiss.
Klabo hit .359 with 14 RBI, five doubles and two home runs.
"The only question is where Chris is going to play," Scearcy said. "He could be in the outfield, fill in at first when Drew is pitching, or be our catcher.
"He's slated to bat third. He swings the bat hard. He's a dangerous hitter. I think we finished the season with him batting cleanup. I would like to see him bat third ahead of Fred Weiss."
Fred Weiss hit .283 with 16 RBI, one double and three home runs.
"Fred will be in either center or right field," Scearcy said. "If I made the lineup out today he would be batting fourth.
"Fred's a lot stronger than last year. We're looking for him to have a big year. He's also a good defensive player. He throws well, runs well. We expect him to be one of our leaders."
Parrish made only 16 plate appearances while catching or playing shortstop.
"Tony caught last year when we moved Joey to short," Scearcy said. "Tony played some shortstop last summer. Whether he plays shortstop this year depends on if we find an adequate replacement at catcher."
Additional varsity candidates:
Seniors -- Dave Berndgen (2b), Mark Germain (2b), Mike Huesmann (of), Andy Pickar (2b), Jason Sather (of).
Juniors -- Eric Anderson (c), Gregg Day (c), Joe Doolittle (3b), Cliff Edberg (2b), Paul Erickson (2b), Dan Gauerke (p), Nathan Maaske (of), Jordan Mohs (ss), Kevin O'Grady (1b), Brandon Oppelt (1b), Morgan Shepherd (c), John Vanlandschoot (p), Ben Vroman (p-1b), Garrett Warren (p), Nathan Weber (c-of), Jade Whirley (of).
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