A Classic weekend

Members of the Ottumwa High School softball team await Kacy Nickerson following Nickerson’s two-run home run hit on Wednesday night in a 7-2 win over Des Moines East. The Bulldogs hope to continue celebrating big wins over the next two days at Huston Field during the Ottumwa Classic, which is scheduled to begin Friday morning with Albia facing Southeast Polk at 10 a.m.

OTTUMWA — When it comes to the weather and the annual Ottumwa Classic, it’s all or nothing.

Huston Field will be the site for 13 teams to battle in 13 games over the course of a loaded two-day prep softball tournament. Ottumwa, ranked eighth in Class 5A, is not ducking anyone facing the formerly-ranked Centerville Redettes and reigning Southeast Conference champion Fairfield Trojans tonight before taking on defending 3A state champion Davenport Assumption and seventh-ranked (5A) Johnston on Saturday.

That is, of course, assuming another round of thunderstorms doesn’t develop throughout either day of the tournament. Frank Huston, who put one of the most loaded fields in some time together for the Classic, contemplated that possibility on Wednesday night while sitting in the home dugout as rain fell on Huston Field postponing the second game of an important CIML Metro doubleheader with Des Moines East to next week.

“When you have this kind of heat and humidity, you’re always vulnerable to some downpours,” Huston said. “The problem when run a single-field tournament with a full schedule is you can’t really have a delay. You have some opportunities to cancel some games if you need to, but we’ve got teams especially on Saturday that are really traveling a long way.

“We’ve got some top teams coming in here to play each other, assuming the weather holds up.”

Fans of great high school softball action should hope the clouds roll by harmlessly over the next 48 hours, leaving great teams and great storylines to be played out on the diamond. Today’s action features six games split up into what amounts to a pair of triangulars with No. 7 (3A) Albia, No. 15 (5A) Southeast Polk and No. 9 (3A) Solon all facing each other in three straight games starting at 10 a.m.

Ottumwa, Centerville and Fairfield then take the stage for the second half of action on Friday’s docket. The Trojans, coming off a thrilling comeback win on Monday over Mount Pleasant to clinch a conference title, face Centerville at approximately 3:15 p.m. Ottumwa will play in the final two games of each day, facing Centerville at approximately 5 and Fairfield tonight at approximately 6:45 p.m.

“There’s no Plan B when it comes to the schedule,” Huston said regarding any back-up plans for moving games to different times, dates or locations should weather intervene. “I don’t even know where you’d go.”

Saturday’s slate for the Ottumwa Classic came together earlier this season when Cedar Rapids Xavier had to drop out of attending the Classic this year due to a scheduling conflict. Huston put out word that an opening had become available to anyone interested in playing twice in Ottumwa on the first weekend in July.

Pleasantville, currently ranked third in Class 2A, responded first and will face a pair of former OHS softball standouts turned head coaches. Mandi Moore, in her first year as head coach at Keokuk, will bring the Chiefs into Huston Field to open a seven-game slate Saturday against the third-ranked Trojans at 8:30 a.m.

“I’m looking forward to bringing my team back there. I’ve got a lot of great memories that I made on that field,” Moore said. “One thing I let Frank know was that I had to get that home team dugout. It’s where I grew up playing softball. It’s kind of like another home for me.”

Moore got that honor at the expense of Amber Doyle, who is back with Roland-Story after winning twice from the home dugout at Huston Field last year at the Ottumwa Classic on the way to playing in last year’s Class 3A state softball championship game. Doyle and Moore will match up for the first time as head coaches in Saturday’s second game, at approximately 10:15 a.m. Roland-Story will then face Pleasantville at approximately Noon.

While Pleasantville responded first to the vacancy left by Xavier, Davenport Assumption also reached out to Huston about coming to the Classic. As a result, one of the busiest days in the history of Classic will now feature four final games of heavy-hitting softball programs with the Knights, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Ottumwa and Johnston all on the field. Jefferson and Ottumwa will both play split doubleheaders against Assumption and Johnston with Jefferson’s two games preceding the final two games for the Bulldogs.

“When you have a chance to bring programs like these to your tournament, how do you say no to any of them? At one time, I think 10 or 11 of the teams in the tournament have been or are currently rated,” Huston said. “It’s a pretty stacked field. For us, we need to win these games. We want to win, especially when it comes to the Classic.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

2019 OTTUMWA CLASSIC

All games played at Huston Field, Ottumwa

FRIDAY

Albia vs. Southeast Polk, 10 a.m.

Solon vs. Southeast Polk, 11:45 a.m.

Albia vs. Solon, 1:30 p.m.

Fairfield vs. Centerville, 3:15 p.m.

Centerville vs. Ottumwa, 5 p.m.

Fairfield vs. Ottumwa, 6:45 p.m.

SATURDAY

Keokuk vs. Pleasantville, 8:30 a.m.

Keokuk vs. Roland-Story, 10:15 a.m.

Roland-Story vs. Pleasantville, 12 p.m.

Davenport Assumption vs. Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 1:45 p.m.

Johnston vs. Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 3:30 p.m.

Davenport Assumption vs. Ottumwa, 5:15 p.m.

Johnston vs. Ottumwa, 7 p.m.

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