The last time the Central Lakes College baseball team made it to the national tournament, Raiders coach Warren Mertens had a bevy of players at his disposal.
This year Mertens has 25 players on his roster with hopes the large player pool will help the Raiders go deep into the postseason.
"This is the most players I've ever carried," Mertens said. "I carried 22 the year we went to the national tournament. At that time I felt that to make it to the national tournament you'd need 24 players and carry extra pitchers. The extra players we have this year are pitchers."
Mertens not only has a quantity of players. He also has quality players, especially in his six sophomores.
One of the players back is outfielder Jon Reis, who was named to the All-Minnesota Community College Conference and District E teams.
Reis demolished opposing pitching. He led the Raiders in virtually every offensive category. Reis hit .481 with 10 home runs and 38 RBI. He also had an impressive .975 slugging percentage.
Head coach -- Warren Mertens, eighth year (1991-94, 2000-03)
CLC career record -- 101-100 (.502)
2002 record -- 13-11 North Division, 15-15 overall
Returning players -- Michael Baso (of), Dustin Burkman (p-1b), Phil Doll (1b-dh), Justin Kolling (2b-of), Jon Reis (of), Tim Voigt (c-inf).
Assistant coach -- Pat Held.
(1 p.m. doubleheaders unless noted.)
23-at St. John's JV, 5 p.m.
30-ST. JOHN'S JV, 5 p.m.
3-at Northland, noon
4-at Fergus Falls
8-10-Region 13 at Fergus Falls
15-17-State at Austin
"Jon's just a good hitter and a good ballplayer," Mertens said. "Whether he puts up the same numbers as last year, that depends on a little bit of luck. I don't want to put a hex on him but he could actually put up better numbers.
"I'll stress to him that he needs to just swing the bat and not to put any pressure on himself. If he does that the numbers will come."
Tim Voigt and Michael Baso are two other sophomores Mertens is depending on, not only on the field, but off it as well.
Both have been instrumental in providing leadership to the 19 freshmen on the team.
"They both did work study for me and I've put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders," Mertens said, "just in getting equipment out and taking over when I'm not there. We don't have captains but they've definitely been the leaders. The players respect them."
Voigt will catch while Baso will patrol center field. Add in freshman shortstop Dan Saehr of Pierz and Mertens likes the middle of his defense.
"If you're strong up the middle that's a good sign," said Mertens. "Tim will do a good job for us catching and Mike gets a great jump on the ball. We picked up Danny Saehr at shortstop so we'll be strong up the middle."
Dustin Burkman is the lone returning starting pitcher for CLC. Last year Burkman had a 2-2 record with one save and a 2.48 ERA.
Freshmen Pete Marjamaa of Menahga, Dave Smith of Baraboo, Wis., and Sam Bandow of Onamia should give Mertens a solid rotation.
"We've got about 12 guys that can pitch," Mertens said. "Dustin is our No. 1 guy. He's not real overpowering but he's got a lot of good stuff and he mixes his speeds well.
"Marjamaa should do well for us and he swings the bat very well. Dave Smith has been a surprise. He was someone I didn't even know about and he's a left-hander."
In past years, depth has been a problem for Mertens. Not this year.
"There'll be a lot of pressure for positions but that's good," Mertens said.
Michael Baso (outfield) Menahga, Dustin Burkman (pitcher/first base) Menahga, Phil Doll (1st base/DH) Perham, Justin Kolling (2nd base/outfield) Staples-Motley, Jon Reis (outfield) Staples-Motley, Tim Voigt (catcher/infield) Cold Spring.
Dan Saehr (shortstop) Pierz, Kent Schleif (outfield) Becker, Bryan Hennen (outfield/pitcher) Cold Spring, Dave Smith (outfield/pitcher) Baraboo, Wis., Jamo Burkman (outfield) Menahga, Tom Stevens (3rd base) Staples-Motley, Shane Keranen (2nd base) Menahga, Nick Meteer (pitcher/shortstop) Sebeka, Scott Fischer (outfield) Pierz, Dave Schneider (2nd base) Kimball, Jeff Riley (3rd base) Pierz, Caleb MacDonald (pitcher) Brainerd, Pete Marjamaa (pitcher/third base) Menahga, Matt Lehrer (catcher/third base) Litchfield, Joel Lieser (3rd base/pitcher) Browerville, Sam Brandow (pitcher/utility) Onamia, Brandon Karnes (outfield) Hibbing, Dan Stenehjem (pitcher) Grand Forks, N.D., Dan Krueger (outfield) Baraboo, Wis.
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