By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA – Upwards of 90 games among 33 teams played on five diamonds over three days with three champions left standing.
Stack the numbers up however you want, but there’s no denying that this is going to be one incredibly busy weekend of youth softball in the City of Bridges. The USSSA Eastern Iowa "C" State youth softball tournament will bring over 450 young softball players in age divisions of 10-and-under, 12-and-under and 14-and-under to compete for qualifying berths in next month’s USSSA World Series tournaments.
According to tournament director Robert Greiner, Ottumwa should come out as the biggest winners of this weekend even without one of the four city teams claiming one of the three state titles.
“The hotels will be sold out. The McDonald's will be sold out. Pizza Hut will be sold out. Subway’s going to be packed,” Greiner said. “It’s going to bring a lot of money to the community. It’s not just the 450 young ladies that are playing here, but it’s also the families that are coming out to watch their daughters and sisters play in the tournament as well.”
“There really are not a lot of towns that do this much with USSSA. This is third year Ottumwa has done something like this. I think it’s been pretty successful for us in the past.”
All the action gets under way on Friday night, when all four Ottumwa teams will be opening play in the three different divisions over the opening six games of pool play competition. Among the first games to be played at 6 p.m. on Friday will include the Ottumwa Dynamite, who are looking to qualify for the 10-and-under, opening play on diamond three against the Albia ‘Dirt Demons’ while Ottumwa’s two 12U teams meet as the ‘Rampage’ and ‘Khoas’ meet on Field 5.
Local fans are encouraged to take in all six of the games on Friday night, which will also include Greiner’s Ottumwa Bulldog 14U team opening against the Osky Rebels at 7:30 p.m. on Field 4 as well second games for the Dynamite and Rampage later in the evening, as the opening night of the tournament is free admission.
“That’s a chance for the community to get out and see all the Ottumwa teams playing on one night as well,” Greiner said. “We try to give people that opportunity to see all of our local girls compete in their opening games.”
Starting on Saturday, admission to the tournament is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-14. With a total of 45 games scheduled to be played from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. over the five diamonds at Ottumwa Park, Greiner feels fans will certainly get plenty of bang for their buck.
“We’ll have a game going on every hour and a half throughout the day,” Greiner said. “It’s relatively cheap entertainment. We don’t take a hot dog break. It’ll pretty intense most of the day.”
Besides the four Ottumwa teams that will be competing in the three divisions, teams will be competing from as close locally as Fairfield, Centerville, Albia, Pekin, Bussey, Sigourney and Oskaloosa to as far away as Des Moines, Oxford, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Baxter, East Marshall and Davenport. The winner of the 10U title will earn the right to play in the USSSA Fastpitch World Series in Branson, Missouri on July 15 while the 12U and 14U winners earn berths to Tiffany Hills Park in Kansas City on July 10.
Both the Ottumwa 12U ‘Rampage’ and 14U ‘Bulldogs’ already have earned berths to world series play in Kansas City, while the 10U Dynamite and 12U Khoas will be looking to join in on the Bridge City fun on their home diamonds this weekend. All in all, according to Greiner, this weekend should do a lot to help continue helping provide young softball players in Ottumwa with the upkeep in their facilities.
“A lot of the improvements we’ve done have come from events like this,” Greiner said. “We’re not a huge, wealthy community. We don’t have something like a Musco coming in giving huge funding. An event like this is something that can go right back into funding our improvements.”
Following the two days of pool play, Sunday will feature bracket play starting at 8 a.m. and running throughout the day with the final championship games being played at 3:30 p.m.
A complete list of tournament teams, pools, standings, schedules and brackets can be found online at www.usssa.com.