Lowell Scearcy and Bob Karn joined an elite club this week, becoming the second and third Minnesota high school baseball coaches to record 700 career victories. Brainerd’s Scearcy is in his 45th season and got No. 700 with a 10-3 victory over Rocori on Monday; St. Cloud Cathedral’s Karn is in season 44 and reached the milestone when the Crusaders defeated Mora 15-0 on Tuesday.
The all-time leader is New Ulm coach Jim Senske, who retired in 2005 with 707 victories during a 40-year career.
That’s a pretty exclusive club.
“They are great coaches, tremendous coaches, tremendous guys,” Karn said of Senske and Scearcy (pictured). “It’s a very special kind of thing. As long as we can put in the headline that I was the coach of the team that won; we don’t like headlines that say ‘The coach won 700 games.’ The coach didn’t win 700 games. It’s teams that win and it’s teams representing schools that allow players to have that kind of experience.”
Scearcy, 68, and Karn, 72, have a lot in common, most notably their careers as baseball coaches. Brainerd has gone to state 10 times since Scearcy became coach 42 years ago (after he taught and coached in Pillager and Verndale) and the Warriors won state championships in 1995 and 2000. Karn, who has spent his entire career at Cathedral, has taken 17 teams to state, winning seven titles.
But the two coaches also have differences. Scearcy like to ride his motorcycle; Karn is a daily practicioner of tai chi, a Chinese martial art that focuses on relaxation, emotional control and balance. Scearcy is an old-school coach and retired math teacher who can be equal parts gruff and giggles; Karn still teaches literature classes part-time and is more zen master than drill sergeant.
When asked about reaching 700 wins, the responses of the two shed light on their temperaments and coaching styles.
Scearcy: “Jim Senske told me that if you hang around long enough, pretty soon they start to give you stuff. It turned out to be true. I never thought I’d be around this long. It just kind of happens. We’ve got a good bunch of kids and it’s been fun.”
Karn (pictured): “It’s the families of the kids that have brought them up so that they respect the game, help each other to get better, and in our case, being a Catholic school, the religious part is important; the blessing of the Lord to allow us to be healthy enough to play the game. Those are the things that make it so valuable. Anything in isolation isn’t of any value. It’s only in the context of all those things.”
Neither coach is talking about retiring, saying that as long as they are healthy and feel good they will continue coming to the ballpark. And both of them have teams that could go deep into the postseason. Brainerd took a 15-2 record into a game Wednesday at Alexandria and Cathedral was 16-1 before playing Foley the same day. Cathedral is ranked No. 2 in Class 2A and Brainerd is No. 9 in Class 3A.
Scearcy, who graduated from high school in Pillager in 1963, has also coached football, basketball, track and cross-country, and he worked as a basketball and football official for many years. He was an assistant football coach at Central Lakes College in Brainerd for 35 years and has been the head football coach at Pillager since 2007.
Keith Peterson, who has been Scearcy’s assistant baseball coach for 26 years, said one of Scearcy’s strengths is that he’s very predicable.
“Over the years he’s stressed fundamental baseball and stayed with it. He’s very much a stickler for a high percentage of strikes from the pitchers, good defense, and we spend a lot of time in practice hitting. I think I’ve probably thrown more batting practice than anyone else over the last 25 years.
“There’s a well-organized practice behind every win. That’s the thing that I’ve noticed; you have to prepare to win.”
Karn graduated from Cathedral in 1959 and returned as a teacher and coach in 1969. At a recent reception for faculty and staff, he was honored as the longest-serving employee in Cathedral’s 129-year history.
Karn served two stints as the Crusaders’ head boys basketball coach, and one of his former assistants is current St. John’s University head football coach Gary Fasching. Fasching arrived at Cathedral in 1982 and was Karn’s assistant basketball coach for 10 years. Fasching’s son Jeff is a senior captain on the baseball team and will play collegiately at the University of Minnesota.
“There’s no one like him,” Gary Fasching said. “Our kids are so lucky and fortunate that they get to play for him. Number one, Bob has the right perspective on sports. He teaches more than the game. The advice he gives them, the books he has the kids read. My son has brought home a lot of books that he’s had to read for Bob, and they’re all geared toward making yourself better. It’s not just as a baseball player, but as a person.”
With Scearcy and Karn both in the 700 club, their players are thinking about getting them past Senske’s 707. That would be possible with a successful postseason run.
“It means a lot to us to play for a coach that good and that distinguished,” said Jeff Fasching. “But 700 wasn’t really on our radar; it’s the 707 number that we want.”
BY THE NUMBERS
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