Two Henry County teams will be in Ft. Dodge next week for the state softball tournament, Mt. Pleasant in 4A and New London in 1A. This, you probably already know. But, the state softball tournament is a new experience for some fans, and many of you will be making your first trip to Ft. Dodge next week. So, to give you a little background on this year?s happenings, here are 10 fun facts about the 2015 state tournament.
1. Multiple fields: Unlike Principal Park in Des Moines which is just one ball field, Rogers Sports Complex in Ft. Dodge has multiple fields. There are five softball fields used for the state tournament. The five fields are Mittera Field, Buena Vista University Field, Veterans? Field, Dodger Field and Yankee Field. Mittera and Buena Vista hold all first round and winner?s bracket games.
2. Day one start times: If you?re looking to travel to Ft. Dodge on Monday to watch Mt. Pleasant and New London play, you may have to come up with an activity for a few hours in between. The Panthers play the first game of the tournament, at 11 a.m. and the Tigers play one of the last games, at 7 p.m. Of course, you could stay at the fields and watch the other games. Fairfield conveniently plays at 3 p.m.
3. Defending champs: Dallas Center-Grimes is the two-time defending 4A champion, but that doesn?t necessarily mean they are the overwhelming favorites. The Mustangs, who outscored their opponents 26-2 in last year?s state tournament, have lost a big chunk from last year?s team, including dominant pitcher Paige Lowary, and have lost 13 games this season compared to just one last year. The two-time defending 1A champion, Akron-Westfield, was defeated in its regional final by River Valley.
4. New London rematch: The Tigers are back in the state tournament after a year off last season, and their first round opponent isn?t completely unfamiliar. New London defeated Newell-Fonda, 1-0, in the state semi-finals two years ago.
5. Cinderella stories: Mt. Pleasant and Ankeny are the only teams headed to Ft. Dodge this year that started their postseasons with losing records. The Panthers are 20-19, but started their postseason run with a 17-19 record, and Ankeny bumped themselves to .500 with their regional finals win. Clarke started their run with a record of 17-17. The Indians are the defending 3A champions.
6. 4A parity: In class 4A, six of the eight tournament teams have 10 losses or more, with the only two exceptions, Waverly-Shell Rock and Creston, facing off in the first round. Out of the 32 teams in the other classes, only nine teams are at double-digits in the loss column.
7. RAGBRAI: It might get a little crowded in Ft. Dodge on Monday night. Participants in the annual bike ride across Iowa will be staying overnight before heading off to their next destination on Tuesday morning. Good luck finding a hotel room!
8. Experienced group: The New London softball team finished second in 2013. Six players from the starting line up in the 2013 championship game are still in uniform for the Tigers.
9. Return trips: In Mt. Pleasant?s 4A bracket, the only team returning from last year?s state tournament is defending champion Dallas Center-Grimes. There are three teams returning from last year?s 1A bracket. Lynnville-Sully, AGWSR and Marquette Catholic will be coming back. AGSWR defeated Marquette to open its tournament last season, and the two teams are matched up for another first round game.
10. Guaranteed three: Unlike most other state tournaments, softball guarantees you a full three game schedule, win or lose. Because there are so many fields, loser?s brackets are used to ensure the maximum number of games. At the end of the week, each field will be sorted out from first place to eighth.