Beyond the subtle pleasures of representing one’s high school, each game, or practice for that matter, seems to hold a special meaning to members of the Minnetonka baseball team.
No matter how inconsequential or profound the result, there are expectations, a reputation, and a history of success to uphold.
The Skippers have averaged 14 victories each regular season for the past five seasons, excluding this season. They have made 10 state tournament appearances, the most recent being 2013, when the team finished third in Class 3A. Of those appearances, Minnetonka has finished as a state runner-up once and placed third on three occasions.
“Minnetonka baseball is known to be pretty dang good,” senior shortstop Jake Kuzma said. “We’re going to see everybody’s best pitcher and see everybody’s best game so we have to able to bring it every night.”
This season, the expectation is no different.
Heading into Monday’s highly anticipated matchup with Wayzata, the Skippers were the No. 1-ranked team in the state’s Class 4A poll and were 12-2 on the season. Minnetonka had defeated the Trojans, ranked second in Class 4A, 2-0 in a previous meeting this season.
On this day, however, the conference foe returned the favor. Minnetonka led 5-2 in the bottom of the third inning until Wayzata surged a furious comeback, scoring 11 runs to win 13-5.
Coach Paul Twenge, in his 10th season and approaching 900 career victories, said the way in which his team responds to the loss will serve as a measuring tool for the remainder of the season.
“It’s really up to them,” he said. “They scored  runs and of the first eight they scored, I think maybe two or three were earned. That’s not an excuse. They put the ball in play, and we just didn’t get it done. That’s all it is.”
As of the loss to Wayzata, Kuzma led the team with a .362 batting average, 17 hits and 13 runs. Fox Leum owned a team-best four home runs while Ben Livorsi led the Skippers with 16 RBI.
Minnetonka has a talented pitching rotation with starters Jake Raether, Sam Thoresen and Jimmy Ramsey, and a deep bullpen to match with Nate Shoemaker, Burt Hedstrom, Mitchell Oehme and Leum.
“We have three or four Division I pitchers in our starting rotation,” Kuzma said. “Obviously, that’s good for us but we have to play good defensively as well.”
Despite the lopsided loss to Wayzata, Twenge suspects this year’s team has yet to realize its potential and could be remembered as one of the program’s better teams.
“Each year, every kid has to understand what we do and sometimes it gets lost because they start to lick their wounds after a game like this,” he said. “But they understand baseball is a big thing for Minnetonka and it always will be.”
In the program’s lone state championship game appearance, Minnetonka lost to Little Falls 5-4 in the 1979 Class 2A final. Last season, Minnetonka lost in the sectional playoffs.
The goal is still to win the program’s first state title.
“It would mean the world,” Kuzma said. “If we could do that, it would be a dream come true for sure.”
This season can still end with the Skippers reaching the state tournament for the 11th time.
“It’ll be fantastic,” Twenge said. “Minnetonka has been to state many of different times and the last time we were there was 2013 and we took third, so it would be nice to make another trip back if we could.”