While establishing the Brainerd Warriors as one of the state's baseball powers, coach Lowell Scearcy has tried to avoid having position players pitch on a regular basis.
Last year was an exception to that philosophy as Nick Weiland and Matt Means took regular turns on the mound and in the field.
This spring will continue to be an exception as returning all-conference shortstop Mike Zauhar and catcher Joey Tautges may take regular turns in the starting rotation.
"We've had years where our pitchers just pitch," Scearcy said. "That way, pitchers don't get hurt playing another position on days they don't pitch. At the other end of it, pitchers look to be some of your top players and it's always nice to have one of your good athletes on the mound.
Head coach -- Lowell Scearcy, 33rd year (3 at Verndale, 30 at Brainerd)
Career record -- 466-199 (.701)
Record at Brainerd -- 428-191 (.691)
2001 record -- 11-2 CLC, 23-6 overall, fourth in Class 3A state tournament.
Returning letterwinners -- Seniors Ryan Browning (pitcher-infield), Jason Goerges (pitcher-outfield), J.P. Platisha (first base-outfield), Joey Tautges (pitcher-catcher), Mike Zauhar (pitcher-shortstop), Kevin Mertens (pitcher-infield).
Assistant coaches -- Keith Peterson, Jay Sannes, Dave Stengrim, Joel Lofstrom.
(Games 5 p.m. unless noted.)
9-ST. CLOUD TECH
23-at St. Cloud Apollo, 4:30/7 p.m.
30-LITTLE FALLS, 4/6 p.m.
2-at St. Cloud Tech, 7 p.m.
3-at Princeton Tournament, 4 p.m.
4-at Princeton Tournament 12:15/5 p.m.
11-BRD INV 11 a.m., 6:30 p.m.
"The biggest problem will be replacing Mike and Joey when they are pitching. But both will be in our pitching rotation as of now."
Zauhar, who did not pitch an inning last spring, is the team's leading returning hitter (.416). He led the team in runs (27) and hits (42) and smacked four doubles and a triple.
"Mike, along with Joey, should be one of the top players in the conference," Scearcy said. "We brought Mike up as a sophomore before the tournament to play infield when our regular infielders were pitching. He did a great job on that team. He played a significant part in winning the state tournament in 2000.
"We expect a big year out of Mike. Hopefully, he will play as well as he has in football and basketball, and I'm sure he will."
Tautges, who opened last season at second base, hit .337 with 26 runs, 12 RBI, four doubles and a home run. He pitched one inning last spring.
"Joey is just a solid player," Scearcy said. "He's one of the guys you could put any place on the field, at any one of the nine positions, and be fine.
"We also think Joey is probably one of the best catchers in the state. We kind of rushed him into that spot last year. But we felt at tournament time he was probably the second-best catcher in the state tournament (behind Cretin-Derham Hall's and Twins No. 1 draft pick Joe Mauer.")
Outfielder-first baseman J.P. Platisha is the other returning regular from a team that went 23-6 and finished fourth in the Class 3A state tournament. Brainerd has qualified for state six times in the last eight years.
Platisha batted .297 in just 37 at bats with eight RBI. He has missed almost all of preseason practice while playing junior hockey in Kansas.
"J.P. played some first base and right field for us last year," Scearcy said. "Toward the end of the year he played quite a bit, depending on who was pitching, and did a nice job. He got some key hits."
Other returning letterwinners are senior pitcher-infielders Ryan Browning and Jason Goerges and junior pitcher-infielder Kevin Mertens.
Browning made only 11 plate appearances last season. Goerges hit .257 in 35 at bats with six RBI. Mertens was 1-0 with nine strikeouts, five walks and a 0.00 ERA in nine innings. Opponents batted just .182 against Mertens.
Goerges will probably play center field and pitch.
"He has had some trouble with his wrist," Scearcy said. "If his wrist is in good shape, he should be one of our top pitchers."
Browning may play second or third base and possibly some outfield.
"I'm sure Ryan will also do some pitching," Scearcy said. "He's got a strong arm. He's probably one of our top four pitchers."
Mertens was promoted to the varsity late last season.
"Kevin has a wealth of talent," Scearcy said. "He's got a strong arm and good stuff. Potentially, he could be one of the top pitchers in the conference. He also could play some infield. He might be the answer to playing third or short if Browning and Zauhar are pitching."
Additional varsity candidates:
Seniors -- Dan Abear (OF), Matt Aberle (2B), Matt Bower (3B), Lance Herbst (C), Mike Macy (OF), Ted Nichols (P), Brent Potvin (OF), Mike Weiss (OF).
Juniors -- David Berndgen (2B), Drew Boland (P/1B), Zach Dockter (OF), Mark Germain (P/IF), Ryan Gerou (OF), Mike Huesmann (OF), Aaron Jenkins (P/3B), Chris Klabo (1B), Matt Olding (OF), Tony Parrish (C), Andy Pickar (SS), Jason Sather (OF), Chad Weiss (SS), Fred Weiss (OF).
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