Still, Harter feels Cardinal (17-15) will take nothing but positive momentum into their Class 2A regional first round matchup at home Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Van Buren from their efforts against two rated teams in Ottumwa.
“Van Buren wasn’t out there. We were. That’s going to pay dividends on Tuesday,” Harter said.
Like Harter, White agreed that the Ottumwa Classic was a perfect springboard to the postseason for his team. No. 3 (4A) Solon (37-2) returns to the Classic today to face No. 8 (5A) Ankeny at 12:15 p.m.
“We said the other day after our last game that the regular season is now officially over,” White said. “We view this tournament this weekend as the start of our postseason. The caliber of the competition we’ll face down here is just as good as any we’ll face on the road to state.”
One other team that got a big boost from the Classic Friday was Southeast Polk, which finished its resurgent regular season off in style by beating to ranked opponents. The Rams sent No. 12 (3A) Clarke (23-10) home winless in the Classic with a 3-0 shutout in the second game of the day before coming back late to black No. 7 (4A) Cedar Rapids Xavier 6-0 behind a Hannah Parker three-hitter.
“The girls have done a really nice job staying the course,” Southeast Polk head coach Tia Stiles said of the Rams, who started the regular season at 4-8 and wrapped up the regular season Friday at 25-14. “I think we all knew that if we just stayed the course as a team and let the process work, we’d be a pretty successful team by the end of the season.”
“I think Hannah and I are both pitching really well right now,” junior Cassady Knudsen said after striking out 10 Clarke batters in her five-hit shutout pitching performance for Polk. “When we’re both pitching this well, it’s going to be really hard to beat this team.”
While Southeast Polk is through with softball until opening Class 5A regional play next weekend against Des Moines Roosevelt, several other teams will just be starting their Ottumwa Classic runs today. Several area teams are in action, including matchups among local squads to kick off the day with North Mahaska facing Albia at 9 a.m. and Fairfield at 10:45.