Baseball tourney attracts 90 teams

Gopher Classic pool play takes place at several local sites

Burnsville’s Bo Hellquist swings at a pitch during an American Legion baseball game Tuesday against Eastview. Burnsville is one of nine teams from Dakota County playing in the Gopher Classic tournament this weekend. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Burnsville’s Bo Hellquist swings at a pitch during an American Legion baseball game Tuesday against Eastview. Burnsville is one of nine teams from Dakota County playing in the Gopher Classic tournament this weekend. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

The Jim Hanus Gopher Classic, already the largest American Legion baseball tournament in the United States, is growing again.

The 90-team tournament – up six from last year – starts Friday with pool play at 15 sites, including four in Dakota County. Fifty-nine teams are from Minnesota, and nine of them are from Dakota County. The tournament has almost doubled in size since 2006, when it had 48 teams. The Gopher Classic’s namesake, Jim Hanus, was a longtime coach of several teams in the Minnetonka/Excelsior area, including the Excelsior Legion.

Barring weather delays, each team will play five games over three days through Sunday, with a playoff phase beginning Monday and concluding with the championship game at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Veterans Field in Minnetonka.

Apple Valley is host of a pool at Legion Field that has two-time defending Gopher Classic champion Coon Rapids, along with Minnesota teams Rosetown and Mankato National, West Fargo, N.D., and Yankton, S.D. On Friday, Apple Valley will play Rosetown at 9 a.m. and Mankato National at 2 p.m.

Burnsville, ranked third in last week’s state American Legion poll, will be host of pool play at Alimagnet Park. Others in that pool are Minnesota teams East Grand Forks, Rochester A’s and Shakopee, plus DePere, Wis., and Sioux Falls West of South Dakota. Burnsville opens play Friday against the Rochester A’s at 4:30 p.m. and Sioux Falls West at 7 p.m.

Sixth-ranked Lakeville North is a pool-play host, with games split between Lakeville North High School and Frederickson Field in Elko. Champlin, Owatonna and Wayzata play in the Lakeville North pool, along with Kenosha, Wis., and a Canadian team, the Calgary Dinos. Lakeville North plays one game on Friday against Owatonna at 2 p.m. at Elko.

Eagan will face Andover, East Ridge, Detroit Lakes, Papillion (Neb.) North and Brandon Valley, S.D., in pool play at Eagan High School. Eagan has a pool-play doubleheader Friday with games against Papillion North at 4 p.m. and Detroit Lakes at 6:30 p.m.

Eastview, ranked eighth in the state, will be part of a pool at Veterans Field in Minnetonka. The Thunder plays two games Friday against Minneapolis Southwest at 11:30 a.m. and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton at 2 p.m. Eastview closes pool play against No. 2-ranked Excelsior at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Lakeville South will take part in pool play at Braemar Park in Edina, taking on Ash Port of Green Bay, Wis., in its opener at 9 a.m. Friday.

Farmington will have its pool-play games at Bethel University in Arden Hills. The team plays Grand Forks, N.D., at 1 p.m. Friday, followed by Bemidji at 3:30 p.m. Farmington closes pool play with a game against No. 1-ranked Tri-City Red of New Brighton at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Rosemount goes to Maple Grove High School for pool play. On Friday, the team faces Hamline Purple of St. Paul at 4:30 p.m. and Maple Grove at 7 p.m.

Champions from 15 pool-play sites, along with one second-place team, advance to the 16-team, single-elimination playoffs Monday in Bloomington, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Edina.

More information about the tournament is available at www.tricitybaseball.org/GopherClassic.htm.

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