As all eyes turn to Fort Dodge and the 2021 Iowa High School State Softball Tournament, the remaining 40 teams have a chance to end the season with a celebration. The last stop of the playoffs is here.
Several defending champions are looking for a repeat, while others are hoping to start a new streak of domination. Elite prospects and legendary coaches are scattered across the championship field.
With that, let’s dive into the intrigue and what to watch out for this week in Fort Dodge. Classes 1A, 2A and half of 3As start playing on Monday. The other half of the 3A, 4A and 5A kicks in on Tuesday. Title matches for 1A and 2A are Thursday, while the other three classes crown their champions on Friday.
Is it finally the year for Fort Dodge?
It becomes an annual assessment at this time of year.
Fort Dodge typically collects a seed high in Class 5A. Then the question arises: is this finally the year that Fort Dodge wins the first championship of the program?
With now 17 state appearances – including 12 since 2002 – the prestige of Dodgers softball can cling to anyone. But something is clearly missing. No title and a string of painful losses are all Fort Dodge has amassed in his hometown.
As for 2021? It looks like such a good year as any. The Dodgers (35-4) are seeded with three losses less than anyone in the 5A field. Fort Dodge, which starts playing Tuesday at 7 p.m. against No.8 seed Bettendorf (24-15), has lost only once since June 2.
The Dodgers also have two of the state’s top prospects dealing damage on both sides of the ball. Iowa entry Jalen Adams has an unfathomable season stat line, going 22-1 with a 0.61 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 138 2/3 innings. Iowa signatory Tristin Doster was equally dominant at home plate with an average of .523, 12 homers and 49 RBIs.
Add in Mariah Myers’ 55 RBI as an eighth grader, and it’s clear this could be Fort Dodge’s best product in a while. A chance to get revenge on Cedar Rapids Kennedy, who beat the Dodgers in last year’s championship game, could come in the semifinals if the Cougars (27-9) manage to beat Waukee (32-10) .
A championship date, likely against No. 2 seed Pleasant Valley (33-7) or No. 3 seed City High (33-7), would then wait. Either way, this should be Fort Dodge’s year to get things done.
Two long droughts have ended.
For two schools, this year marks the first appearance of state softball in more than two decades.
The longest completed drought belongs to Pella Christian (17-18), who won the No.8 seed in Class 2A with an upset regional final against Van Meter, who scored 30 wins. The Eagles’ last appearance in the United States before this year was in 1990. Pella Christian will start action at 3 pm Monday against seed Wilton (28-3).
In Class 3A, No. 5 seed Anamosa (32-9) is back in the state tournament for the third time in its history and the first since 1996. The Blue Raiders, who toppled Crestwood in the final region, start playing at 7:30 p.m. Monday against the No. 4 seed Atlantic (33-5).
Repeat the odds?
Three 2020 champions have the chance to win again in 2021. Let’s dissect their repeat chances.
Topping the list is undoubtedly Winterest (34-7), who won the No. 1 seed in 4A and starts playing at 1 p.m. Tuesday against No. 8 seed Oskaloosa (22-14). The Huskies have been highlighted as a consecutive contender in our mid-season analysis, and they haven’t disappointed since. Winterset hasn’t lost to a non-5A enemy since June 9. Expect the Huskies to be on their feet by the end of the week.
Next, Kennedy, who almost derailed in the regional final, but held on for a 1-0 win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson. The Cougars don’t have quite the same firepower as last season, but it’s still a seasoned group that isn’t afraid of the Fort Dodge stage. It’s always difficult to sled in 5A, and 2021 is no different.
The latest is defending 1A champion Clarksville (23-4), who is returning to the tournament in the state for a third straight season. The Indians are the No. 6 seed and will open the game at 1:30 p.m. Monday against the No. 3 seed Lisbon (35-8). With six seniors graduating from the 2020 squad, it’s clear why Clarksville isn’t quite in the same position as last year. He will need a solid week from his stars if another title is to be claimed.
Everyone loves dingers.
Who doesn’t like homers? Everyone loves homers.
And they will also be going to Fort Dodge. Of the state’s 37 players currently with double-digit long balls, 17 of them will compete in the state tournament.
- Anna Wohlers, Assumption of Davenport (20)
- Sydney Potter, South East Polk (19)
- Ellie Snetselaar, South East of Polk (16)
- Mya Dodge, Cedar Rapids Kennedy (14)
- Cheyenne Behrends, Clarksville (14)
- Emma Dighton, Boone (13)
- Skylar Benesh, Linn North (13)
- Olivia Engler, Atlantic (12)
- Tristin Doster, Fort Dodge (12)
- Elle Ridgeway, Williamsburg (12)
- Sydney Roe, Assumption of Davenport (11)
- Emma Bolton, Clarke (11)
- Jena Young, Winterset (11)
- Sophia Del Vecchio, Bettendorf (10)
- Emily Rigdon, Bettendorf (10)
- Jenna Lemley, Linn North (10)
- Macy Weiss, Waukee (10)
Additionally, the top three teams on the tours – Southeast Polk (46), North Linn (43) and Davenport Assumption (42) – all qualify by the state. Expect plenty of memories to sail the outfield wall.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preparations for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.