You can bet the farm on it.
Sometime this month, metro newspapers will publish preseason baseball previews and will likely anoint Cretin-Derham Hall as the No. 1 team in Class 3A and the favorite to win the state championship. The Raiders return senior catcher Joe Mauer, who may be selected No. 1 in the pro draft, and have one of the state's finest baseball traditions. Since 1980, C-DH has won nine championships in 15 trips to state.
Even though they return just two starters this spring, the Brainerd Warriors should be recognized as contenders for the title. Their tradition has become as sound as C-DH, with five state trips in the last seven years.
Brainerd added to its legacy last June by storming to its second state title, edging Elk River 5-4, Mounds View 4-0 and Lakeville 4-1.
Head coach -- Lowell Scearcy, 32nd year (3 at Verndale, 29 at Brainerd)
Career record -- 443-193 (.697)
Record at Brainerd -- 405-185 (.686)
2000 record -- 11-3 CLC, 25-5 overall.
Returning letterwinners -- Seniors Nick Weiland (pitcher-first base), Tim Siekas (center field).
Assistant coaches -- Keith Peterson, Jay Sannes, Dave Stengrim, Joel Lofstrom.
(Games 5 p.m. unless noted.)
10-at St. Cloud Tech, 7 p.m.
24-ST. CLOUD APOLLO (2), 4:30
1-at Little Falls
3-ST. CLOUD TECH
4-at Princeton Tournament, 4 p.m.
5-at Princeton Tournament, 12:15/5 p.m.
10-at Willmar, 4 p.m.
11-BRD tournament, 5/7:30 p.m.
12-BRD tournament, 11 a.m./1:30 p.m./4 p.m./6:30 p.m.
5-Section at South champion
7-Section at North champ (if necessary)
14-15-State Tournament, TBD
"Even though we have only two returning starters, we have eight players with some varsity experience and we should be OK," Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said.
The Warriors will build around senior right-handed pitcher-first baseman Nick Weiland and senior center fielder Tim Siekas. Both were integral parts of last year's championship run.
At the plate, Weiland batted .318 with 23 runs, 16 RBI, three doubles, a triple, two home runs, 10 walks and three stolen bases. On the mound he was 3-3 with a 3.27 ERA. In 25 2/3 innings, he gave up 29 hits, struck out 29, walked five and hit one.
"Nick is the key as far as pitching goes," Scearcy said. "He had some elbow problems in the past year but so far his elbow has been fine. We're looking for him to be one of the top pitchers in the conference and have a good year. Along with that is the fact he will be in the middle of our order, hitting third or fourth. He's one of very few left-handed hitters we have this year."
Siekas hit .338 with 13 runs, 21 RBI, two doubles, a home run, eight walks and eight stolen bases.
"We plan on having him bat leadoff," Scearcy said. "Tim had a great year last year. Hopefully, he can improve on that this year and be a real force for us. He's probably the fastest guy on the team. He's a good baserunner. He will be a big asset."
Others returning with varsity experience include seniors Matt Means (pitcher-third base), Bob Brown (catcher), Dan Kirkpatrick (outfield), Adam Hardy (pitcher-first base) and Bill Tadych (pitcher-outfield).
Means was 2-0 in 11 innings, batted 24 times with a .375 average, including five runs, seven RBI, six doubles and a home run.
Brown batted just eight times, had four RBI and a double. Kirkpatrick made 13 plate appearances, with five RBI. Hardy pitched five innings and hit .357 with six RBI, two doubles and a home run. Tadych batted only four times and pitched 6 2/3 innings.
Junior pitcher-shortstop Mike Zauhar also returns. He batted just 13 times, with five RBI and a home run. He pitched only one inning.
Scearcy is looking for Means, Zauhar, Hardy and juniors Jason Goerges and Ben Winterfeld to be factors on the pitching staff.
"I think we will come up with a pretty good group," he said. "Means, Zauhar and Hardy have experience. And, all of them pitched a lot for the Legion team.
"Even though we have only two starters back, we've got a number of guys who are proven hitters coming up through the grades and in summer baseball. The challenge will be getting players in the right spots on defense."
Additional varsity candidates:
Seniors: Curtis Caughey (second base), Lincoln Lepri (outfield), Herschel Templeton (outfield), Matt Dickenson (pitcher-third base), Jason Chisholm (pitcher).
Juniors: Matt Bower (catcher), Ben Winterfeld (pitcher-third base), Jason Goerges (pitcher-outfield), Ryan Browning (pitcher-outfield), Lance Herbst (catcher), Alan Opatz (outfield), Aaron Montgomery (second base), Matt Aberle (second base), J.P. Platisha (first base), Mike Macy (outfield), Ted Nichols (pitcher), Joe Tautges (infield-catcher-pitcher), Dan Abear (outfield), Brent Potvin (outfield), Mike Harmon (second base), Andy Schindler (outfield).
In an effort to slow the speed of batted balls, the National Federation of High School Associations has outlawed bats whose length exceeds the weight by more than three inches. Last season, bat length could exceed the weight by five inches.
"Last year a 34-inch bat could weigh 29 ounces," Scearcy said. "This year, a 34-inch bat can weigh no more than 31 ounces. I don't know if it will have the effect they hope it will. I guess at the end of the year we will take a look at our stats to see if it made a difference."
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