A loaded Sir G’s Classic; Wisconsin teams part of 11-team field in Legion event

Top-flight American Legion baseball teams from northern Minnesota, other parts of the state and even beyond are coming to Ely.
The occasion is the Sir G’s Midsummer Classic, which in a decade-and-a-half has become one of the premiere Legion tournaments in the state.
Defending state Division II champion Pierz was a late scratch from the tournament, which starts Friday at Veterans Memorial Field, but the remaining 11 teams form a power-packed lineup.
Viroqua (Wis.), which won the national Division II title two years ago, is making the trek to Ely along with fellow Wisconsin powerhouse Superior, as well as 2017 state Division II runner-up Proctor and 2017 state tournament teams BOLD and Stephen-Argyle.
Add Crosslake, Cloquet, Esko, International Falls, Virginia and host Ely to the mix and the result is a collection of talent unlike many, if any, small-town tournaments in the state.
“From top to bottom, you’re not going to find a better American Legion tournament than this one in northern Minnesota,“ said Ely Head Coach Tom Coombe. “There’s a great mix of talent from across the state. Whoever wins this thing will beat some very, very good teams.”
In the last half-century, Ely has developed a reputation as a haven for baseball tournaments, hosing countless district, regional and state playoff events.
The Sir G’s Classic, which started in 2002 with only six teams, along with June’s DQ Grill and Chill Classic have carved their own niche and added regular season tournament action to the mix of contests at Ely’s historic ballpark.
Teams come from several hundred miles to play in Ely, including Viroqua, which won Wisconsin and national titles in 2016 and is led by legendary coach Pete Swanson, who has amassed over 1,000 wins in his career.
Swanson’s Viroqua team played in Ely in 2000, when the community hosted the Divison II Central Plains Regional, and he has brought his team north several times since, most recently in 2013.
Viroqua is a contender again in Wisconsin this year and was off to an 18-8 start as of Monday.
Viroqua is part of a loaded Blue Division, joining BOLD, Cloquet, Esko and International Falls in a five-team pool.
BOLD reached the state tournament a year ago and was atop the Class A high school rankings this spring until suffering a playoff upset..
Last weekend, BOLD hammered Ely 14-2 at Jordan.
Cloquet boasts all-area standouts Jon Baker and Tim Pokornowski and is a leading contender in the Division I ranks, while Esko has two college-bound standouts - pitcher Brody Kaldahl and catcher Tyler Peterson. Rounding out the Blue Division is International Falls, led by St. Cloud State recruit Trimble Butler.
“This is a tournament that will feature some outstanding individual talent,” said Coombe. “There are literally dozens of college baseball prospects that will be here.”
Host Ely has a college recruit of its own in senior Gage Merhar, an all-state Class A selection who is bound for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Fellow seniors Matt Schultz and Carter Gaulke are part of a small but imposing nucleus for the hosts, who are 8-6 thus far.
Ely will likely be underdogs in most of its pool play contests.
Proctor reached the state fianls in 2017, losing to Pierz, and it returns all-area pitcher Jon Aase to its lineup.
Superior is a Division I team loaded with talent, while Crosslake features players from Pequot Lakes, which beat Ely during the high school.
From northwestern Minnesota comes Stephen-Argyle, which has become a tournament mainstay and qualified for state in 2017.
Virginia has one of the area’s top pitching prospects in senior-to-be Jack Perala.
The action starts at 9 a.m. Friday (see schedule) and the lineup includes 11 games over the first two days in Ely, with four more including the title game on July 15.

2018 Sir G’s/Ely Legion Midsummer Classic
July 13-15, Veterans Memorial Field

Tournament Schedule
Friday July 13 - Ely
11 a.m. - Virginia vs. Superior
1:15 p.m. - Esko vs. Int. Falls
3:30 p.m. - BOLD vs. Cloquet
5:45 p.m. -Viroqua vs. Int. Falls
8 p.m.- Ely vs. Crosslake

Friday July 13 - Soudan
2:15 p.m. - VIrginia vs. Proctor
4:45 p.m. - Stephen-Argyle vs. Superior

Saturday July 14 - Ely
8:30 a.m. - BOLD vs. Int. Falls
10:45 a.m. - Superior vs. Crosslake
1 p.m. - Ely vs. Stephen-Argyle
3:15 p.m. -Proctor vs. Stephen-Argyle
5:30 p.m. - Viroqua vs. Cloquet
7:45 p.m. - Ely vs. Proctor

Saturday July 14 - Soudan
9:30 - Viroqua vs. Esko
11:45 a.m.- BOLD vs. Esko
2 p.m,. - Cloquet vs. Int. Falls
4:15 p.m. - Virginia vs. Crosslake

Sunday July 15 - Ely
9 a.m. - BOLD vs. Viroqua
11:15 a.m. - Cloquet vs. Esko
1:30 p.m. - Ely vs. Virginia
3:45 p.m. - Championship Game

Sunday July 15 - Soudan
9 a.m. - Stephen-Argyle vs. Crosslake
11:15 a.m. - Superior vs. Proctor