BLOOMINGTON - The best Legion baseball teams in the Upper Midwest and beyond will be in the Twin Cities area this weekend for the Gopher Classic, and among them will be Bemidji.
The Legion will play its five preliminary games at Red Haddox Field in Bloomington and the players and coaches are heading south with the idea of winning the championship of the 84-team tournament.
The field is divided into 14 pools, each with six teams. Bemidji has been grouped with Bloomington Gold, Farmington, DePere, Wis., Calgary (Alberta, Canada) Redbirds and Coon Rapids.
In its only action today the Legion will face Calgary at 5 p.m. Saturday's schedule sees Bemidji battling Bloomington at 9 a.m. and Coon Rapids at 11:30 a.m.
On Sunday Bemidji will square off against Farmington at 2:30 p.m. and DePere at 5 p.m.
Standings in each of the 14 pools will be compiled following Saturday's action, and each pool winner will advance to the championship elimination rounds beginning on Monday. Joining them will be two wild card entries which will be awarded to the two runners-up which allowed the fewest runs during pool play.
A year ago Bemidji finished 3-2 in its pool and tied for first with two other teams. The Legion officially finished in third place in its pool based on the tie-breakers, however, and did not advance to the championship round.
Bemidji opened with a 5-4 loss to eventual pool champion Mankato. After defeating Meridian, Idaho, 6-5 the Legion fell 6-5 to Apple Valley. It rebounded, however, to down Mitchell, S.D., 5-2 and Minneapolis Southwest 6-0.
"Our first goal this year is to be playing on Monday," said Bemidji coach Mike Fogelson, "and then we want to win it all."
Trent Baker, who threw five innings Wednesday night and was the winning pitcher in Bemidji's 9-2 victory over Brainerd, will get today's starting assignment. With five games in three days guaranteed, and with the possibility of playing nine games in five days, however, Fogelson plans on using everyone on his pitching staff at some point during the tournament.
"The deeper we go into the tournament the more it favors us because we do have the pitching to play nine games in five days," Fogelson said.
Bemidji's Pool Schedule
Red Haddox Field, Bloomington
5 p.m.: Bemidji vs. Calgary Redbirds
9 a.m.: Bemidji vs. Bloomington Gold
1:30 p.m.: Bemidji vs. Coon Rapids
2:30 p.m.: Bemidji vs. Farmington
5 p.m.: Bemidji vs. DePere, Wis.