If the local establishments seem a bit crowded in the days to come - even by traditional state softball week standards - it stands to reason given the new look of this year's tournament.
A fifth class of participants will add eight more teams to the mix, meaning nearly 100 players and approximately 5,000 extra fans are expected to enter our city limits between now and Friday night.
Let me start by saying this: if you see a worker or volunteer at Rogers Sports Complex this week, give them an extra pat on the back or word of encouragement. Nothing is going to come easy with such a hectic schedule, as games now begin at 11 a.m. each morning and 12-hour shifts won't be uncommon.
There will be inevitable growing pains as Fort Dodge becomes the first official host of a five-class state event. We've welcomed state softball to our backyard for over 40 years now, but it's come a long way from the eight-team, one-class-fits-all tournaments of the early 1970s. As adjustments are made, patience is always appreciated.
Our award-winning sports department will do its best to make every school feel like they're receiving hometown coverage this week. We're invested from the first pitch to the final out, with game stories, statistics, pictures, brackets, features and everything in between.
Photo galleries are available on-line, as well as live scoring updates via Twitter and Facebook. For the second consecutive season, we're devoting an entire webpage to the tourney - click the 'State Softball' icon on the left side of our sports site on-line - and a 32-page special section featuring each squad is in today's edition of The Messenger.
Many of the teams and players in the 2012 field have made a habit of visiting Rogers Park in recent years. Carlisle and Martensdale-St. Mary's add one for the thumb this summer, as both programs are making their fifth straight appearance at Rogers Park. Clear Creek-Amana and Sioux City Heelan have stretched their qualifying streaks to four, while West Des Moines Dowling, Des Moines East and Mid-Prairie are back for a third consecutive time.
Ankeny, Pleasant Valley, Solon, Winterset, Dallas Center-Grimes, West Delaware, Bondurant-Farrar, Estherville-Lincoln Central, Des Moines Christian and Earlham are repeat performers as well, meaning 17 schools in all return from a year ago. Des Moines East, Clear Creek-Amana and Akron-Westfield are defending champions.
From our area, Newell-Fonda is back after a one-year hiatus, making its sixth trip to Fort Dodge since 2005. Emmetsburg has also become familiar with the territory, with its third appearance in the last five seasons.
For every seasoned veteran, there is a rookie equally worth noting. The wait is finally over for first-timers Marshalltown, Iowa City West, Van Meter, Sumner-Fredericksburg, Denver, Bellevue Marquette and Le Mars Gehlen.
Whether you're an old hat at state softball or a wide-eyed newcomer, we all hope everyone's experience here is an enjoyable one. Best of luck to the now 40 programs in attendance this week. You are now a part of history in the making.
NEVER SAY NEVER: As the old saying goes, one person's trash is another's treasure.
The fourth-ranked St. Edmond baseball team would love to have a mulligan after Saturday night's stunning loss to Clarion-Goldfield in a Class 2A district final. The Gaels swept their North Central Conference rivals in the regular season at Rogers Park on June 28 - winning twice via the mercy rule by a combined score of 27-7 - yet they were eliminated when it mattered most by these same Cowboys on this same field.
We've learned time and time again that records and history mean nothing come tourney time. Prior results simply can't predict future events, especially in baseball and softball.
I'm sure the Gaels would love to burn the tape of this particular game, while C-G head coach Jason Berning identified it as a ''landmark win for our program.'' After all, the Cowboys went 5-13 in the NCC and dropped five of their last six regular season games by a combined score of 56-9. They suffered through 10 losses by 10 runs or more.
Yet here they are, back at .500 after three tournament victories and one step away from their first-ever state baseball trip.
St. Edmond should be commended for another outstanding season. Clarion-Goldfield deserves credit for being the better ballclub on this given night. Win or lose, this is what the postseason is all about.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org