baseball

Menahga baseball team made another playoff push

In 2019, the Braves won five playoff games to advance to the Section 5A championship game before losing to Sebeka 2-1.

After the 2020 season was canceled because of COVID, Menahga was moved to Section 8AA. The Braves were one of the final four teams, winning three playoff games before being eliminated by Wadena-Deer Creek 6-5.

That playoff run ended Menahga’s season with a 19-6 record, including a 10-4 mark in Park Region Conference play.

“This team exceeded my expectations. I knew I was going to have a good ball team, but they came out and played great baseball this season,” said Menahga head coach Nick Jasmer. “This was such a great team to coach and we all had a blast this season.”

After opening the season with an 8-0 loss to New York Mills in the conference opener, the Braves went 7-1 in their next eight games. Menahga defeated Sebeka (10-0), Wadena-Deer Creek (4-3) and Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale (16-1) before losing to W-DC (4-0) in Park Region play. Wins over Nevis (11-1), Hawley (13-7), Parkers Prairie (6-2 in a conference game) and Sebeka (6-1) gave Menahga a 7-2 mark.

The Braves followed a 10-5 loss to NYM with wins over Pillager (14-1) and Ottertail Central (12-1) and a loss to Parkers Prairie (7-3). Menahga closed out the regular season with a seven-game winning streak by defeating Pine River-Backus (14-4), OTC (7-0), BHV (6-3), Frazee (7-1 and 9-3), Nevis (13-3) and Pillager (8-2).

Menahga finished third in the Park Region Conference standings behind New York Mills (13-1) and W-DC (12-2). Sebeka (7-7), Parkers Prairie (5-9), Pillager (5-9), BHV (2-12) and OTC (2-12) rounded out the conference standings.

For the Section 8AA playoffs, the Braves received the No. 3 seed in the South and opened with a 2-0 win over No. 6 Fergus Falls before falling to No. 2 W-DC 10-2. Menahga stayed alive with a 9-7 win over Breckenridge (the No. 4 seed in the South) and a 6-3 win over Warroad (the No. 1 seed in the North) before seeing the season end with the loss to W-DC, which defeated Perham 5-0 and 3-2 in nine innings in the section championship games.

The Braves averaged 7.5 runs a game while allowing 3.5 runs a game. Menahga hit .279 as a team and had a team ERA of 2.49. The Braves’ defense committed 44 errors that led to 31 unearned runs.

Leading the Braves this season were seniors Charlie Hodge, Sam Jackola, Jack Pietila and Eddie Salmen; and juniors Ivan Anderson, Nolan Haataja, Ethan Hendrickson, Aaron Pietila, Henry Salmen and Liam Torola. Anderson, Jack Pietila, Eddie Salmen and Haataja earned Park Region Conference honors while Henry Salmen and Torola received all-conference honorable mention honors.

Haataja was named the Braves’ MVP after leading the team with a .351 batting average (26 for 74, including five doubles and one triple) while adding 22 runs scored, 17 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 25 games while going 9-0 on the mound with a 2.13 ERA. Haataja (who started at shortstop or third base when not pitching) allowed 21 runs (16 earned) on 37 hits and 16 walks while striking out 53 in 52.2 innings and 13 appearances, including eight as a starter.

Jack Pietila, the starter at shortstop when not pitching, finished second on the team with a .333 average (25 for 75, including seven doubles) while leading the team with 18 stolen bases. Pietila scored 23 runs and had 23 RBI in 25 games while going 3-2 on the mound with a 2.83 ERA. In 10 pitching appearances, including six as a starter, Pietila allowed 22 runs (12 earned) on 27 hits and 19 walks with 28 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.

Anderson was the Braves’ starting catcher who hit .321 (17 for 53, including five doubles, two triples and one home run) with 16 runs and 15 RBI in 19 games.

Eddie Salmen started at third base when not pitching and hit .257 (19 for 74, including three doubles) with 15 runs and 14 RBI in 25 games. Salmen pitched 42.2 innings, going 5-2 with one save allowing 17 runs (10 earned) on 36 hits and 23 walks with 54 strikeouts in 11 appearances, eight as a starter, for a 1.64 ERA.

Henry Salmen, the team’s designated hitter, batted .323 (21 for 65, including four doubles) and scored 15 runs while driving in 17 in 22 games.

Torola started 25 games at first base and hit .306 (22 for 72, including one double and one homer) with 26 runs scored, 16 steals and 15 RBI.

The starting outfield consisted of Hendrickson, Hodge and Jackola.

Hendrickson was the Braves’ starting center fielder who batted .273 (18 for 66, including one double) with 19 runs scored and 11 RBI in 22 games.

Hodge played in 25 games in right field and hit .216 (16 for 74, including five doubles) with 12 runs and nine RBI. Hodge also went 1-0 in seven pitching appearances (including one start) with a 2.05 ERA after allowing nine runs (four earned) on five hits and 23 walks while striking out eight in 13.2 innings.

Jackola, the starting left fielder, batted .213 (13 for 61) and scored 22 runs, stole nine bases and batted in seven runs.

Aaron Pietila played in 17 games, batting .189 (7 for 37) with 12 runs and seven RBI as the starting second baseman.

Also seeing some varsity time were Isaiah Usher (who started two games and went 0-1), Quincy Jantz, Brett Stenersen, Lars Peterson and Ted Jackola.

Other team awards went to Sam Jackola (Most Improved), Jack Pietila (Mr. Offense), Hodge (Brave Award) and Hendrickson (Golden Glove).

“We never really held our heads low, whether we made a mistake during the game or we didn’t come out with a win. We kept our heads high and kept being competitive,” said Jasmer. “We had improvements on both sides of the ball that allowed us to play that competitive baseball that we needed to play.”

The graduation of the four seniors will leave huge positions to fill next season. However, Jasmer is counting on the returning players to provide the leadership for another successful season.

“These seniors started playing varsity at a young age and right away you could see the leadership qualities that they were going to bring to this program. They set the bar high for any incoming players that want to step into their spot. We are really going to miss this group of seniors. I want to thank them for all that they have done for this baseball program. They definitely are leaving a legacy behind,” said Jasmer. “(Next year, we will have the) same expectations as always: play fun, competitive Menahga Braves baseball.”

Menahga statistics
Hitting: Haataja .351 (26 for 74), J. Pietila .333 (25 for 75), H. Salmen .323 (21 for 65), Torola .306 (22 for 72), Anderson .321 (17 for 53), Hendrickson .273 (18 for 66), E. Salmen .257 (19 for 74), Hodge .216 (16 for 74), Jackola .213 (13 for 61), A. Pietila .189 (7 for 37), Stenersen .000 (0 for 3), Jantz .000 (0 for 5).
Doubles: J. Pietila 7, Hodge 5, Anderson 5, Haataja 5, H. Salmen 4, E. Salmen 3, Hendrickson 1, Torola 1.
Triples: Anderson 2, Haataja 1.
Home runs: Anderson 1, Torola 1.
Runs scored: Torola 26, J. Pietila 23, Haataja 22, Jackola 22, Hendrickson 19, Anderson 16, E. Salmen 15, H. Salmen 15, A. Pietila 12, Hodge 12, Jantz 4, Stenersen 2.
RBI: J. Pietila 23, H. Salmen 17, Haataja 17, Anderson 15, Torola 15, E. Salmen 14, Hendrickson 11, Hodge 9, A. Pietila 7, Jackola 7, Jantz 1.
Stolen bases: J. Pietila 18, Torola 16, Haataja 14, Jackola 9, H. Salmen 8, E. Salmen 6, Hendrickson 6, A. Pietila 4, Anderson 4, Hodge 3, Jantz 1.
Pitching: Anderson 0-0 W-L (1.0 IP, 0R, 0 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA); A. Pietila 0-0 (9.2 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 7 H, 6 BB, 7 K, 2 HBP, 1.45 ERA); E. Salmen 5-2 (42.2 IP, 17 R, 10 ER, 36 H, 23 BB, 54 K, 4 HBP, 1.64 ERA); Hodge 1-0 (13.2 IP, 9 R, 4 ER, 5 H, 23 BB, 8 K, 1 HBP, 2.05 ERA); Haataja 9-0 (52.2 IP, 21 R, 16 ER, 37 H, 16 BB, 53 K, 4 HBP, 2.13 ERA); J. Pietila 3-2 (29.2 IP, 22 R, 12 ER, 27 H, 19 BB, 28 K, 5 HBP, 2.83 ERA); H. Salmen 0-0 (1.2 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 1 K, 8.40 ERA); Usher 0-1 (9.0 IP, 14 R, 11 ER, 18 H, 4 BB, 8 K, 8.56 ERA).

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