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Paul ends 1st season with Jets just short of district title game

Jeffers High School baseball coach Luke Paul throws batting practice May 31, 2021, at Stanton Field. (Eddie O’Neill/The Daily Mining Gazette)

PAINESDALE — When Luke Paul took over the coaching reigns for the Jeffers Jets baseball team in late March, he wasn’t sure what he was getting into.

While he had been both a player and later an assistant coach for Finlandia University’s baseball program for a number of years, this would be his first high- school gig.

“I wasn’t sure what I was dealing with,” he said. “I didn’t know how much of the game these kids knew or even what their interest level would be. Was baseball their first sport or just something to do with their buddies until school let out? At Finlandia, guys were there to play baseball and obviously knew the game.”

Fast forward to June 4, and the Jets were two outs away from going to the MHSSA Division 4 District 97 championship game. It was the top of the seventh, and the Jets led the Gogebic Miners 3-0.

Jets’ starter, Dean Jurmu, was pulled because of pitch count. The Miners took advantage of the pitching change, tying the game at three and won it two innings later, 5-4.

“That was a heartbreaker,” he said. “But, that’s baseball. Either one of us could have won that game. It was a fun game, and I am very proud of the team. They gave it their all.”

The Jets ended their regular season at 10-3, and Paul couldn’t be happier with his squad of 13.

“My biggest surprise was their love for the game,” Paul said. “It’s Memorial Day and here we are practicing. This is something they wanted to do. We’ve had so much fun. Winning certainly makes that much easier.”

He noted that his big hitters this year were Brent Heinonen, Andrew Kinnunen and Levi Frahm.

“Brent is our base hit man. Andrew hasn’t struck out once this season and Levi is our clean-up man in the lineup,” said Paul.

On the mound, the Jets’ ace was Jurmu.

“Dean doesn’t throw real hard, but his balls have a lot of movement which batters have a tough time picking up on,” Paul said.

All of that added up to a very successful season for Jeffers. The Jets had ‘mercied’ (10-run mercy rule) six teams in a row before losing 3-2 to Houghton to end their regular season. Paul, however, wasn’t complaining.

“With all those mercy wins, I wasn’t sure if we were playing up or down to competition,” he explained. “But when we played Houghton, we played such good baseball. I don’t think we had any errors, and it was just a good old-fashion baseball game. It was one of those where the game could have gone either way. My kids said that even though they lost, it was much more exciting than winning 12-0 in three innings.”

The Jets said good bye to three seniors this year, and Paul already has his eyes set on next season.

“I know I want to get more games on the schedule and just continue to grow on this season and build up a culture of baseball here at Jeffers.”

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