By ANDY HEINTZ Courier Sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The No. 2 ranked (Class 5A) Ottumwa Bulldog softball team will gear up for postseason against some stiff competition when it puts on its 39th annual Ottumwa Classic Friday and Saturday.
This year’s Classic is festooned with ranked teams, three of which will take on the Bulldogs.
“We got good opponents coming in and that’s where you want them, right before tournament time,” Ottumwa coach Frank Huston said. “You want to play the good teams that will help you get where you want to be in a week and a half. You play the best to get you ready for a state tournament run.”
In its first game of the two-day tourney, Ottumwa will take on seventh-ranked (Class 4A) Cedar Rapids Xavier, who joined the tourney when Albia had to back out of today’s game — to potentially make up a South Central Conference matchup — at 5:15 p.m. today. Xavier gave third-ranked (Class 5A) Pleasant Valley a run for its money earlier this season before eventually falling to the Spartans 11-8. Of course, the Bulldogs used a three-run seventh inning to defeat then No. 2-ranked Pleasant Valley 8-7 in a memorable game during the alumni reunion tournament on a weekend that celebrated the achievements of Huston and the players who have made up his venerable program over the last 40 years.
The Saints and Bulldogs also have both played and defeated No. 9-ranked (Class 5A) Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Xavier split a doubleheader with Jefferson, while Ottumwa beat the J-Hawks 4-2 in a 13-inning thriller. After the game between the Saints and Bulldogs had been completed, the girls will turn around and face Cedar Rapids Jefferson, who will be out for revenge after coming out on the wrong end of the two team’s first epic encounter in Cedar Rapids.
Things won’t get much easier for Ottumwa Saturday, as the Bulldogs will take on No. 8 (Class 5A) Ankeny at 3:30 p.m. Ankeny will be looking for payback after the Bulldogs knocked off the then top-ranked Hawkettes 8-2 at last year’s Ottumwa Classic. Ottumwa will play Keokuk later that day at 7 p.m.
The Classic will start at 9 a.m. Friday morning when Cardinal takes on 12th-ranked (Class 3A) Clarke at 9 a.m. After that game has been completed, Clarke will take on Southeast Polk at 10:30. Then, at 12:15 p.m., the Comets will try to upset a third-ranked (Class 4A) Solon team who has suffered only two defeats all season.
Before they take on the Bulldogs, Xavier will face Southeast Polk at 1:45 p.m. Then, in an all-Eastern Iowa matchup at 3:30 p.m., Cedar Rapids Jefferson will take on Solon. Ottumwa’s two games against the Saints and J-Hawks will close out Friday’s schedule.
Saturday’s Classic schedule will include Albia and several other area teams. The Lady Dees begin the day with a game against North Mahaska at 9 a.m. After that, the Warhawks will have to turn around and face Fairfield at 10: 30 a.m. Solon returns to the field to face Ankeny in what should be a hotly contested game at 12:15 p.m.
At 1:45 p.m., The Trojans and the Lady Dees will face off and the Bulldogs game with the Hawkettes will follow. No. 3 (3A) Mid-Prairie will face Keokuk at 5:15 p.m and Ottumwa will wrap up the tourney against Keokuk.
39TH OTTUMWA SOFTBALL CLASSIC SCHEDULE
All games played at Frank Huston Field, Ottumwa
Cardinal vs. No. 12 (3A) Clarke, 9 a.m.
No. 12 Clarke vs. Southeast Polk, 10:30 a.m.
Solon vs. Cardinal, 12:15 p.m.
Southeast Polk vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier, 1:45 p.m.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson vs. Solon, 3:30 p.m.
Cedar Rapids Xavier vs. Ottumwa, 5:15 p.m.
Ottumwa vs. Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 7 p.m.
Albia vs. North Mahaska, 9 a.m.
North Mahaska vs. Fairfield, 10:30 a.m.
Solon vs. Ankeny, 12:15 p.m.
Fairfield vs. Albia, 1:45 p.m.
Ankeny vs. Ottumwa, 3:30 p.m.
Mid-Prarie vs. Keokuk, 5:15 p.m.
Keokuk vs. Ottumwa, 7 p.m.