Sir G’s Classic rolls on

Legion tournament in 20th year, will involve 10 teams

Not even COVID-19 could derail the Sir G’s Midsummer Classic last summer, but the annual baseball tournament takes on a more traditional look this year.
The 20th annual event, which starts Friday and runs through July 11, will officially be an American Legion baseball tournament this year.
While the 2020 tournament went on as scheduled and involved a whopping 10 teams and attracted hundreds of fans to Veterans Memorial Field, it was an “independent” baseball event following the formal cancellation of last summer’s American Legion season.
But Legion ball is back in full force in 2021, and the Sir G’s Classic is as well with games both at Ely and Soudan.
In its relatively brief existence, the tournament has become one of the premiere small-town baseball events 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.”
The field is headed by Wadena, which won the Sir G’s Classic last summer and has qualified for the last two Division II state tournaments, including the 2019 state tournament in Ely.
This year’s Wadena team is no slouch and comes to Ely on the heels of a high school season that included a trip to the Class AA state tournament.
One of the other leading contenders next weekend also comes from the west and has a local connection.
Roseau, coached by Ely graduate Josh Weckman, has assembled one of the top Division II programs in northwestern Minnesota and ran up a 19-6 record in high school, and was eliminated by Wadena in the section semifinals.
St. Paul Highland Park comes north for a second straight year, while the remainder of the field is made up of teams from the Eighth District, including both the Division I and II ranks.
Cloquet and Hermantown are both contenders in the Eighth District Division I field, while Virginia is off to a perfect 8-0 start and has one of the best smaller-school teams in northeastern Minnesota this season
Mesabi freshman Ryan Hujanen and Virginia senior Tom Nemanich, an All-State Class AA high school selection, are part of a deep and experienced Virginia group.
Taconite boasts players from both Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin, while Proctor has become a tournament mainstay.
International Falls comes to the Sir G’s Classic with two players bound for college baseball - pitchers Joe Talmage and Bryant Koenig - while a rebuilding Ely team is off to an impressive start with six wins in its first 10 contests.
College freshman pitchers Dalton Schreffler and Bryce Longwell, senior catcher Will Davies and senior infielder Zach Cheney - a Vermilion Community College recruit - form a strong Ely nucleus.
“This is a tournament that will feature some outstanding individual talent and some very good teams,” said Coombe. “There are literally dozens of college baseball prospects that will be here.”
The action starts at 10:30 a.m. Friday (see schedule) and the lineup includes 11 games over the first two days in Ely, with four more on Sunday, July 11.
While the event calls for all teams to play four predetermined opponents, the final day schedule could be altered to allow for two unbeaten teams to meet in a true championship game.