The nations largest American Legion Baseball Tournament kicks-off this Friday, July 13th. 96 teams at 16 different sites across the state will battle to get to Championship Tuesday and the right to claim the elusive championship.
A quick history of the Gopher Classic Tournament for those who are not familiar. In it's 41st year, this is the nation's largest American Legion Baseball Tournament with 96 teams participating at 16 different sites—the semi-finals and finals are Tuesday July 17th at the main host site of Excelsior (Minnetonka, MN) at Veterans Field at Minnetonka High School.
Can Wayzata be the 1st team to three-peat? They will contend for sure out of the Lakeville North site. Don't ever count out the Jr. Jays of Creighton Prep either—they will be participating at the Edina site. What are the Hub's predictions for the final 4 and winner? Read on....
Look for Alexandria to compete till the end at the Anoka Site. The sleepers could be Anoka or Lakeville South.
St. John's University Site
Mankato National, # 8 in the weeks Legion Hub rankings will compete for winning this pool. Don't count out Sartell or Fargo ND either.
Bethel University Site
Look for Osseo or East Grand Forks to compete for the pool at the Bethel site. The Osseo squad are grinders and will compete till the end.
Bloomington Gold Site
Good mix of talented teams at Red Haddux Field this year. Moorhead, the Rochester Red Hawks and Giant Valley will look to contend, but look for West Fargo, ND to be there come Monday.
Burnsville High School will be the place to be this weekend with #1 ranked Stillwater and also the national power Rapid City, Post 22 S.D. in this pool. Don't underestimate Chanhassen or the Rochester Patriot's either. We predict the Hardhats of Post 22 will be there come Monday due to their always great pitching depth.
Eden Prairie Site
With the # 5 ranked Eden Prairie Eagles coming off a great road trip and runner-up in the National Firecracker Tourney in Rhode Island, look for them to be there come Monday. But don't count out the 2006, 2009 and 2010 Gopher Classic champions, Napoleon, OH.
Perennial national power Creighton Prep once again is placed in the Edina site. Edina and CPrep faced off in 2012 in the Regional in Dickinson ND. and had a 2nd match-up in the 2013 Gopher Classic with over 500 people in attendance. Edina has not eaten as much cake the last few years, and with Eastview and CPrep recently playing for the chip' in New Ulm, and # 3 ranked St. Michael Albertville also in the pool, it will be a great weekend of GOOD baseball. Look for the the Jr. Jays of Creighton Prep to win this pool, if not the tournament.
Look for # 7 ranked, and tournament host, to advance to Monday out of this pool. Coming off a great road trip in Alaska, they should compete. Sleepers could be the always good New Ulm Gold and/or Duluth Lakeview.
Talented teams at this year's Hopkins venue. Look for Omaha Millard West, NE to advance as the pool winner. Sleeper could be the Rochester A's.
Lakeville North Site
Two time defending champions Wayata will look again to get to Monday. Don't count out Omaha Skutt or Mankato American either.
Maple Grove Site
The Maple Grove site is very well rounded in 2018. The host Maple Grove, Shakopee and # 10 ranked Grand Rapids are all very talented. Omaha Burke, NE as we know is a great baseball town. With the flip of a coin, we will go with Omaha Burke and the sleeper to be the Thunderhawks for Grand Rapids.
North St. Paul Site
In sticking with the baseball town of Omaha, NE., look for Papillion West, NE to advance to Monday in the NSP site.
University of Northwestern at St. Paul Site
With two out of state teams competing at this site, it will be hard to tell the talent, that being said, the home-grown Bemidji Centaurs will be standing on Monday.
Papillion South, NE will always compete, but let's not forget about Coon Rapids and also St. Louis Park (both receiving votes for top 10 this week) to also be there in the end come Monday. No disrespect for Farmington or Prior Lake—we will once again go with the tradition of baseball excellence in Omaha and Papi.
With Waconia, Champlin, Chaska and Hamline Purple in this field, and the great venue of Lion's Park, great baseball will be had this weekend in Waconia. This is a toss-up with the 4 good local teams.
With the # 2 ranked Ham Lake/Blaine and #6 ranked Woodbury Blue, teams in this pool, look for one of these two to be standing on Monday. Betting man takes Ham Lake to cover.
Look for the regional powers of Creighton Prep and the Hard Hats of Post 22 (Rapid City) to face each other in North St. Paul on Monday, with CPrep advancing. The locals of Eden Prairie # 1 and the boys from Mankato National will also advance to Tuesday. NOT going out on a limb here, but the predicted winner for the 2018 Gopher Classic will be the the Jr. Jays of Creighton Prep.
Enjoy the games this week!
Full Gopher Classic schedule, scores, news and updates can be found at www.legionbaseballhub.com/gopherclassic.