Tom and Vinng

Shakopee coach Tom Schleper and his son Vinny pose together after Vinny had five hits in the Sabers’ 21-5 win over Apple Valley April 22. The five hits tied the school record, which was held by his father set in 1984.

The Shakopee baseball team hasn’t been to the state tournament since 1983.

Can the Sabers break their long state drought this spring, a year after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic canceled their 2020 campaign?

That will be determined come June. Right now, Shakopee is just glad to be back on the field.

“We are extremely excited to be playing again,” Sabers coach Tom Schleper said. “Every day feels like a bonus. This group of seniors have missed out on so much in 2020-2021. I’m so happy for them to be able to play together one last time.”

Shakopee opened this spring winning four of its first seven South Suburban Conference games. In a 22-5 win at Apple Valley April 22, junior Vinny Schleper tied the school record for hits in a game with five.

Vinny went 5 for 5 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Who was the last Shakopee player to have a five-hit game? Well, that would be his current head coach and father, who accomplished that same feat in 1984.

In 2019, Shakopee finished with just eight wins and the team was made up of mostly seniors and juniors. Senior Jacob Skogrand got some time on the varsity that spring.

Most of the Sabers are new to the varsity level this season. Nearly all teams in the SSC and in the state are in that same position, so that’s another part of the coaching equation for Schleper and his staff.

“After a couple of weeks of playing, I think our players are becoming more comfortable with it,” Schleper said. “Sometimes, it’s harder for us coaches, as we can’t remember what grades the kids are anymore. They all seem to have skipped a grade.

Last fall’s three-week session was very helpful to get to know the guys and install some of our system and expectations,” Schleper added. “We have a freshman and a sophomore on the varsity team, so last time they officially played in our program was in seventh and eighth grade. Yep, that’s a huge jump.”

In the win over Apple Valley, Shakopee banged out 22 hits. Skogrand went 3 for 4 with a home run and four RBIs. Senior Tyler Ho was 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI, while senior Ethan Lenzmeier also doubled and drove in a run.

Senior Joe Roder finished 2 for 5 with a double and two RBIs for the Sabers, while junior John Sullivan was 3 for 4 with four runs scored and two RBIs.

Senior Tayden Fredericks was 1 for 3 with two RBIs and three runs scored, while senior Christian Fiedler had two hits and an RBI and senior Foster Mack and sophomore Jaden Case each drove in runs.

Ninth-grader Jack Morris got the win on the mound, working three innings and fanning four.

Shakopee had a 4-3 win over Prior Lake April 16. Mack’s two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted the Sabers to victory.

Shakopee will play 20 regular season games, 18 in the SSC, with the final one set for May 24 at Coon Rapids. The Section 2AAAA tournament starts that same week.

This year’s Class 4A state championship game is slated for June 18 at Target Field in Minneapolis. The dates and venue for the quarterfinals and semifinals are still to be determined.

“We want to battle every game with energy and effort — no regrets,” Schleper said. “Our conference and section are loaded. There’s awesome competition every single game, so we try not to get too high after a big win or too low after a tough loss.

“We start over again the next day with the same mindset of trying to be better each day,” Schleper added. “If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is to appreciate the opportunities to compete.”

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.