Cubs, Longhorns, Brewers seek return state trips in 2024

NEW ULM — It is time to play baseball for the Tomahawk East League as 13 teams battle for the crown.

Games officially open the season this Sunday.

Here — thanks to the help of the managers of the teams in the TEL — are some thumbnails sketches for each team.

The COURTLAND CUBS are coming off of a 20-5 season last year and earned a trip to the Class C State Tournament with wins over Stark and the New Ulm Brewers in Region 2C.

They lost to eventual Class C state champion Maple Lake in the second round of the state tournament.

The Cubs, managed by Chase Meyer, bring back key players from last year in Teddy Giefer, Jackson Bode, Cade Bushard, Maddox Mortensen, Jaden and Nolan Drill. All of them batted over .325.

Courtland has also added new players to their roster in Nik Johnson, Keaton Knaak and Mason Cox.

Courtland has also made renovations to their ballpark adding bullpens down both foul lines as well as moving the center-field fence back from 316 feet to 380 feet.

The STARK LONGHORNS ended last year with a 17-8 mark under manager Dusty Mangen and ended their season in the first round of the Class C state tournament to Blue Earth after earning a state tournament berth with a 14-inning win over Springfield.

Back for the Longhorns are Zach Haala (.345 with 23 RBIs, Nick Labat (.333 with 17 RBIs) and David Suprenant (.316).

Top pitchers back are Adam Sellner, who went 5-2 with a 2.00 ERA and Jon Kopacek (3-1, 3.18 ERA).

The SPRINGFIELD TIGERS posted a 15-11 season last year and for the second time in two years lost to Stark in 14 innings for a state tournament trip.

Under manager Steve Helget, the Tigers return a solid pitching core with Justin Haugo, Jordan Milbrath and Brandon Wilhelmi. Add in Tori Helget and Mason Leonard with college experience under their belts and Jakob Nachreiner from the high school ranks.

On offense, Decker Scheffler, who hit .457 with a a slugging percentage of .875 and an on-base percentage of .630, returns. Jake Poelher hit .335 last season, with Milbrath hitting .328 and Sam Baier hit .340 and a slugging percentage of .571 and an on-base percentage of .480.

Also last season, the Tigers stole more than 80 bases.

The ESSIG BLUEJAYS look to improve on last year 6-14 mark that included a 2-2 record in the Region 2C tournament.

The Bluejays will rely a lot on Erich Prokosch, Hunter Sehr, Jake and Nick Stadick, Jay Helget, Mason Sellner, Winsten Nienhaus and Zach Riederer, in addition to some younger players that manger Terry Helget hope can contribute this year. He also looks to get a lot of innings from the arms of Sam Hansen and Eric Scheibel.

LAMBERTON LONG SOX manager Isaac Jeninges wants to see his Long Sox jump up in wins after their 9-13 mark from last season.

Veterans back are Neil Eichten, who led the team in batting average and hits last year. Will Carlson was second on the team, with Luke Willhite back after a breakout season last year both at the plate and on the mound.

Jenniges is also looking forward to getting back both Eli Fest and Carter Benz back healthy this season.

“We will be looking to get back to finishing towards the top of the TEL,” Jenniges said. “Getting pitching depth back and adding some young players to the mix to go along with a solid group of veterans is key.”

The LEAVENWORTH ORIOLES ended last year with a 13-12 mark under manager Dave Schroepfer, with five of those losses by just one run.

Back this season are Austin Uecker (.417), Jevan Richert (.411) and Jackson Huiras (.385).

Schroepfer said that last year he had six players who hit over .300.

Leavenworth’s pitching will have Dylan Hillesheim, who threw 80 innings and had a 3.08 ERA with 75 strikeouts.

Richert pitched 30 innings and carried a 3.10 ERA and only walked two batters. Huiras threw 45 innings with a 4.04 ERA and 42 strikeouts.

Schroepfer also signed three high-school aged pitchers in Mark Anderson, Brandon Schmitz and Jackon Ludewig.

Ryan Panning and the GIBBON REDS ended last year with a 4-13 mark.

“We struggled to put a whole game together,” Panning said. “We did play well in stretches.”

Key players back for the Reds are Nolan Huiras (.382, 15 RBIs), Josh Wasmund (.266, six home runs, 18 RBIs), Brenden Kienlen (.302 with 14 RBIs and two home runs) and Ethan Schwarzrock (.373).

On the mound, Huiras and Alex Berkner return. Huiras led the team with 56 innings pitched with 61 strikeouts and just 10 walks. Berkner threw 30 innings, which should help him this season.

The HANSKA LAKERS went 17-8 and were led on the mound by Sam Knowles, who went 5-4. In 64 innings, he fanned 52 and carried a 1.83 ERA.

Branson Peterson was 4-0 with an 0.79 ERA and 30 strikeouts.

At the plate, Chris Knowles hit a robust .538 with five home runs and 43 RBIs — both tops on the Lakers.

Kevin Larson (.382), Sam Knowles (.373) and Aaron Portner (.368) also led Hanska at the plate.

The FAIRFAX CARDINALS went 2-14 in the TEL and 3-14 overall last year.

Key players back for the Cardinals are shortstop Caden Hickle, catcher/pitcher Tom Lokensgard and outfieders Jacob Meyer, Carter Peterson and Cale Luthens. Isaac Louwagie and Tyler Fish are back also.

Veterans back to help on a part-time role are Scott Palmer, Zach Black and Rafa Herrrera.

“We have 10 players who we will lean on,” said Fairfax manager Scott Black. “We have six first-year players and most of them are pitchers and catchers. We will be a very young team — younger than last year — when we were the youngest team in the league.”

Scott Salfer hopes that the SLEEPY EYE INDIANS can see an improvement from last season’s 3-13 record.

Salfer will see the addition of Nick Mielke to the squad.

“He is a very good pitcher and middle infielder.”

Jake Mielke is also back for Sleepy Eye from last season.

“He is a middle-of-the-lineup guy an he had all three of our wins last year,” Salfer said.

“And we are hoping to get back Jake Mielke who broke a leg against Stark last year.”

After a 6-10 record last year, the SEARLES GRIZZLIES are looking to jump in the standings of the TEL.

“We look to build off of last year,” Searles manager Collin Helget said.

Back are Casey Lux, Dan Rienke, Kasey Kuck and Nick Dewanz. Also on the Searles roster are Landon Barstad, Ian Brudelie and Graham Glaser.

“They all now have a year more of experience in the TEL,” Helget said.

On the mound for Searles this season are Matt Reiger and Dewanz. Helget is hoping to get Mark Schommer back for the summer.

Searles did add Elliot Schabert and Kolton Achman to the team as first-year players.

After a 22-8 season last year and a regular season Tomahawk East Legue championship, the NEW ULM BREWERS hope to be a power again in the TEL and Region 2C.

The Brewers return almost their entire roster but see the departure of catcher Dalton Deinhart (retired) and outfielder Jadon Domeier, who moved to Grand Rapids.

“We have age and experience,” Brewers manager Al Flor said about the 2024 edition of the Brewers. “We have some of the younger players getting experience from last year and played college baseball this year. “Our hitters are more experienced and we have a good pitching staff.”

That starts with right-hander Mitch Bockenstedt and left-hander Ethan Stade (Minnesota State).

“And we had a strong sesaon last year from Sam Keckeisen,” Flor said. “We still have Wade French — Braden Zimmerman is back off of a season where he had some arm trouble. Adam Slander is back, too.”

The Brewers also bring back a solid offensive lineup.

“We had clutch hitting last year,” Flor said. “When we needed hits, we got them out of a lot of different players.”

Back are J.T. Hoffmann, Zach Hoffmann and Colton Schaefer, who Flor said showed up big last year.

“Hunter and Cole Ranweiler are back, we have a good solid core of players who player,” Flor said. “Trevor Nissen is back, so our hitters are good but we want to start out hot and we need to be focused at the right time.”

With the retirement of Deinhart, the Brewers will have Josh Seidl and Ayden Jensen calling the pitches.

“Josh is the mainstay behind the plate and Ayden is going to be playing legion baseball this summer, so he will be there also getting quite a few innings.”

Flor has Colton Schaefer at third base.

“He was an integral part of our team last year when he made the move to third base,” Flor said. “And we have good utility players who can fill in around the infield when needed.”

Flor said that the Brewers have a good nucleus that is considered family.

Andrew Peters is back at shortstop, with Seidl, Hunter Ranweiler, Jordan Guggisberg and Zach More.

This season with the departure of Domeier, Trevor Nissen will move to the outfield.

J.T. Hoffmann will be in center, with either Hunter or Cole Ranweiler.

“All of our outfielders can play anywhere out there,” Flor said. “We have depth in the right places. But again the biggest thing that we have and that I never had before is that feeling of family. Our baseball association,our fans– the support we get from the community is great.”

Flor said that the goal this year is to make it one step further in the state tournament than last year when they went 2-1 in the state.


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