SLEEPY EYE, Minn. (KEYC) — The Tomahawk Conference typically features a number of talented baseball teams. 2020 would have been no different until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the MSHSL to cancel the spring season.
But, there was one final tournament for those seniors to compete in as rivals became teammates.
The Tomahawk is one of the toughest baseball conferences in the state of Minnesota. In 2018, Sleepy Eye finished as runner-up in the Class A state tournament and 2016 featured the Springfield Tigers hoisting the Class A state title after taking second place the year before.
“It’s really strong, it’s been strong every year. I remember it my freshman year, it was really good. Pitching and hitting all over the place, and it wasn’t going to be any different this year,” said Decker Scheffler, Springfield Tiger.
After a canceled season, there wasn’t going to be any cross-town match-ups between MVL and New Ulm Cathedral or Sleepy Eye and Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s. Instead, a unique opportunity came about this summer. The St. Paul Saints put together a Senior Class Salute baseball tournament filled with teams from across the state including one made up of players from the Tomahawk Conference.
“It was so much fun, I’ve always been playing against those guys the past four years, even in to grade school. Now to play with them against the bigger schools, it brought us together as a conference,” said Mason Cox, Minnesota Valley Lutheran.
The Tomahawk Conference was up for the challenge. That group went 3-0 during pool play, then 2-1 the rest of the tourney to take third place highlighted with wins over Eagan/White Bear Lake and Osseo/Totino Grace.
“It was kind of cool, it probably shocked a couple of us that we beat Eagan/White Bear Lake 10-2 and to beat Osseo and go 2-1 against 4A schools, that shows what the Tomahawk is about,” said Scheffler.
“It’s just a representation of the Tomahawk Conference. We have what many people say the toughest conference in the state. I’d agree with that. When we challenge those higher ranked teams, it made sense that we competed well against them,” said Matt Sellner, Sleepy Eye.
That third place finish is a memory these players won’t forget while competing at one of the best ballparks in Minnesota.
“It was unreal. I’ve never experienced anything like that. I started game three on the mound going to the bullpen and looking out at St. Paul is a crazy view,” said Jace Marotz, Minnesota Valley Lutheran.
“It was insane. We went there last year to watch a game with our legion team, and I never thought I’d be playing there. We stepped on the field, and it was breathtaking,” said Cox.
Finishing their high school careers with an exclamation point.