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Tomahawk baseball team takes 3rd at Senior Salute

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schabert First row (l-r): Tony Geiger, Will Schabert, Nolan Hovland, Matt Sellner, Ivan Hovland, Mason Rummel, Devon Schwarzrock. Second row (l-r): Coach Bruce Woitas, coach Alan Woitas, Brody Sturm, Decker Scheffler, Chris Knowles, Nick Labat, Mason Cox, Jace Marotz, Kaden Zanoth, coach Aaron Nesvold. Not pictured: Teddy Giefer, Henry Scheitel, coach John Giefer.

ST. PAUL — This past spring, high school athletes in every sport were unable to compete because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was hard especially for the seniors who didn’t get to compete in one last season without warning.

However, the St. Paul Saints teamed up with high schools all over the state to let senior baseball players compete in the Senior Salute games at CHS Field and Northwestern Field in St. Paul. Sixteen area players from the Tomahawk Conference competed and took third place overall on Sunday at CHS Field, going a combined 5-1 at the tournament that lasted over two weeks.

Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop’s Devon Schwarzrock (P, OF, 1B), New Ulm Cathedral’s Will Schabert (2B, 3B), Tony Geiger (OF, 3B, P), and Chris Knowles (SS, P), Minnesota Valley Lutheran’s Mason Cox (OF, C, 1B), Teddy Giefer (1B, P, OF), and Jace Marotz (P, OF), Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart’s Kaden Zanoth (OF), Sleepy Eye’s Matt Sellner (1B, P, OF), Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s Nick Labat (IF, OF, P, C), and Springfield’s Brody Sturm (1B, OF), Nolan Hovland (2B, OF), Ivan Hovland (OF, 3B), Henry Scheitel (P, 2B), Mason Rummel (C, P, IF), and Decker Scheffler (OF, 1B, 3B) all teamed up and represented the conference.

The team was coached by St. Mary’s coach Bruce Woitas, Sleepy Eye coach Aaron Nesvold, Cathedral coach Alan Woitas, and MVL assistant coach John Giefer.

The Tomahawk team opened the tournament on July 21 with a 4-3 victory over Team Minnesota (Team Tomahawk rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning) and a 7-0 win over the Gopher Conference team. On July 27, they beat the Southeast Conference team 10-4 to qualify for the final round of 8, which started on July 31.

There, the Tomahawk team defeated Eagan/White Bear Lake 10-2 to advance to the semifinals.

There, New Prague, which took second in Class AAAA and was made up of only player from the high school team, defeated the Tomahawk Conference 7-0. New Prague went on to win the Senior Salute on Sunday.

The Tomahawk team wrapped up third place on Sunday with a 9-8 victory over Osseo/Totino Grace in 8 innings. There, Marotz singled to score Scheffler in the eighth inning for what would be the winning run.

Bruce Woitas has coached his St. Mary’s programs to four state titles and he’s also coached in several all-star games throughout his career. The Tomahawk games this year were fun because it was the first time he got to coach a lot of the guys that he’s coached against over the years. He also said some changes to the rules allowed for everyone to get in.

“I was talking with the coaches (on Sunday) and a lot of ways, it was kind of fun to write these lineups, there’s a lot of talented kids and everybody played every game,” the St. Mary’s coach said. “We put some guys in for three for four innings and we switched that around. They had something where they had the extra hitter and they allowed the DH too, so sometimes you had as many as 11 kids involved in the game in some way right away, and there was unlimited substitutions too, but we kind of stayed to our routine where you play either three or four innings, obviously some guys played the entire game, it was just a lot of fun to be a part of that and I’m glad we put it together.”

A few of the players will be playing college baseball next year, but for some, it was the last time that they were going to be able to compete, with the exception of amateur baseball.

“It was a real experience, it was cool playing with and getting to know guys that I’ve been playing against for my whole high school career and even before that,” Schabert said. “It was cool to get the chance go get to know some of these guys and play with them, it was pretty fun.”

Rummel, who will be playing college baseball at Southwest Minnesota State University this fall, got to play with several of these Tomahawk players earlier last month when he was on a traveling team that competed in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, to name a few places.

He knew that the Senior Select group was a commitment, but he didn’t seem to have a problem finding an excuse to play with some of the best players in the area.

“Bruce Woitas sent us an email asking if there was any seniors around in the Tomahawk Conference that wanted to be a part of it and go up to The Cities and play,” Rummel said. “He said it was going to be a big commitment because we were going to be going up there quite a few times, which we did, but I was like ‘well yeah I want to go play,’ especially since senior season got canceled and this was like a high school event. It was one more time to throw on the Springfield jersey and go compete for Springfield.”

Rummel thought his team played well against teams that were made up of Class AAA and AAAA players in some cases.

“That was the best part, showing them what we could do,” he said. 

Rummel also enjoyed teaming up with some of the guys he’s competed against while growing up.

“It was actually super fun, seeing them on a different level, you’re not really thinking about like what they’re doing or how they react to you, but when you’re with them on a personal level, we became best friends, it was just crazy to think that once we played against each other and now we’re playing together and trying to win together.”

Rummel’s highlights included pitching in the tournament and a home run as well.

For Schabert, it was a chance to put on that Cathedral uniform one last time.

“That was probably the best part, when all of this stuff happened, it was really heartbreaking to know that I wouldn’t be able to put the uniform on again,” Schabert said. “The Senior Salute just gave us a chance to suit up one last time and play with some of my best friends on and off the field. It was amazing.”

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