When the Brainerd Braves begin defense of their amateur baseball state championship they will be the target of every opponent and some key personnel will be absent from the lineup.
The Braves, scheduled to open the 2001 season 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Adamson Field in Brainerd against the Avon Lakers, will have to put their best foot forward against every foe, which will be gunning to beat the state champions.
"Pretty much when I have talked to everybody on the phone setting up games they are really interested in playing us," Braves manager Derek Schmeck said. "They're looking forward to it."
Brainerd isn't looking forward to playing without standouts like catcher Chris Studer, the most valuable player of last year's state tournament who may play in a wood-bat league this summer, and third baseman Jade O'Brien, who is now working in Colorado.
"It definitely will be hard to fill those guys' shoes," Schmeck said. "That's about 60 home runs from last year."
Pitcher-infielder Brett Streiff, who did not play last season, is the only addition to the roster. Streiff formerly played for Fort Ripley and the Brainerd Bees.
"I'm still working on signing some young kids," Schmeck said. "We probably will fill out the roster in the next couple weeks. Brett will add some power that we will miss from the other guys. Hopefully, we will get a couple innings out of him on the mound."
Otherwise, the Braves' lineup returns virtually intact, with pitchers Luke Weiland and Tony Whitlock and first baseman Ryan Thiesse, all of whom were all-state tournament selections. Thiesse's full-time availability may be limited since he is now working in the Twin Cities.
And, Schmeck said he is uncertain how much Whitlock can pitch following a back injury.
"The last time I talked to him he was not sure but he thought he would be able to pitch," Schmeck said. "I'm sure he's not going to be the workhouse he has been the last 3-4 years for us."
The Braves will continue to play in the Victory League even though they have been elevated to Class B. They had hoped to play as an independent team or in a league in the Grand Rapids area but the Minnesota Baseball Association denied both requests.
"We were kind of disappointed," Schmeck said. "They wouldn't let us go independent. We even tried to get in the league up there but they wouldn't let us. They said there are too many teams up there already."
Instead, the Braves have been assigned to Region 7B, which includes the defending state champion Cold Spring Springers and the Brainerd Bees. Brainerd will play several exhibition games against Class B teams, including the Springers (June 6 at Cold Spring), Jordan Brewers (June 16 at home) and the Bees (May 16 and July 18).
Catchers-Damion Miller, Marty Hill
First base-Ryan Thiesse, Brett Streiff, Nick Weiland
Second base-Nic Hanson
Third base-Brett Streiff, Derek Schmeck, Jason Beyer
Left field-Dan DeChaine, Derek Owen
Center field-Brad Streiff, Tim Siekas
Right field-Adam Browning
Pitchers-Luke Weiland, Tony Whitlock, Jeff Barrett, Brett Streiff, Brad Streiff
Brainerd Braves 2001 Schedule
(7:30 p.m. games unless noted.)
22-AVON LAKERS, 1:30
28-at Monticello Polecats, 2 p.m.
29-ST. WENDELL SAINTS, 1:30
4-at Cold Spring Rockies
5-at Watkins Clippers, TBA
6-at Opole Bears, 1:30
12-Pierz Brewers, TBA, 4 p.m.
16-at Brainerd Bees, 7 p.m.
19-at Clarissa Flyers, 6 p.m.
20-at Fort Ripley Rebels, 1:30
23-at Hinkley Knights
25-SAUK RAPIDS CYCLONES
27-RANDALL CUBS, 1:30
28-at Holdingford Express, 1:30
1-at Bemidji Mudcats, 7 p.m.
2-at St. Mathias Saints, 1:30
3-at St. Stephan Steves, 1:30
6-at Cold Spring Springers
8-10 St. Mathias Tourney, TBA
16-JORDAN BREWERS, 6 p.m.
17-FT. RIPLEY REBELS, 1:30
29-at Ultimate Sports
30-CLEAR LAKE LAKERS, 4 p.m.
1-at Randall Cubs, 1:30
4-ST. MATHIAS SAINTS, TBA
6-SAUK RAPIDS CYCLONES
11-ST. CLOUD ORTHOPEDIC
20-at Eden Valley
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