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Opening Day

Another milestone: 50th state softball tournament field arrives at Rogers Park

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Collins-Maxwell players celebrate their Class 1A state softball championship last season at Rogers Park. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

This week’s state softball tournament is the 50th to be played at Rogers Sports Complex.

The 50th anniversary celebration will be next year, even though it’s technically the 51st championship. And don’t ask me if it will be the 50th or 51st annual at that point … that’s a debate for another day.

Either way, it’s an impressive number. Over 850,000 fans have visited Fort Dodge since 1970 to watch a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, a friend or a community member proudly represent their school.

As such, this is a tradition we also treat with a great deal of reverence. We hope to help make your visit a memorable one.

Some teams know the lay of the land well. Fort Dodge qualified as the host school for the fourth time in the last five seasons and 10th since 2002. Dodgers from all walks of life will pack the stands on Tuesday night, when their team squares off with long-time nemesis West Des Moines Valley in the Class 5A quarterfinals at 7 p.m.

Valley and fellow 5A powerhouse Johnston have now reached state seven consecutive times.

Newell-Fonda is another staple on the big stage. Led by new head coach and FDSH graduate Courtney (Vaughn) Darrow, the fourth-seeded (Class 1A) Mustangs are making their 11th trip to Rogers Park in the last 15 years.

The city of Algona, meanwhile, is finally catching tourney fever. Both Bishop Garrigan and Algona High are on their maiden state softball voyages, with the Golden Bears taking the field at 1:30 p.m. on Monday and the Bulldogs debuting a few hours later at 7 p.m.

Davenport Assumption returns as the two-time defending 3A champ. The Knights have a 121-9 record during that period of time, and they’re 193-19 overall since 2015. A three-peat would be just the sixth in Iowa history.

Collins-Maxwell is back as the top seed in 1A after capturing gold in 2018. Louisa-Muscatine, the 2A champ last summer, has moved up a class and is now in Assumption’s bracket.

Central Springs (2A) is here for the fifth consecutive summer.

Ogden ended a 28-year tourney drought by reaching the 2A field. West Liberty (3A) and Dyersville-Beckman (2A) joined Garrigan and Algona in the first-timer’s club for 2019.

Indianola is riding a 22-game winning streak into Tuesday’s 5A action.

Our award-winning staff will pull out all the stops to make sure this week’s sports section feels like home to all the qualifiers. Stories, pictures, brackets, features and social media updates will again be included in the daily package.

We also have a page on our website — under the ‘State Softball’ tab at www.messengernews.net — and a 32-page special preview edition in today’s Messenger. Every qualifying school’s profile is included in the section. Photo galleries will be available at CU.messengernews.net as well.

From the first pitch until the final out of this five-day, 50-game blitz, we are here to make sure your school feels like they’re in their own back yard. We value our role in this event, and will work diligently to make sure these student-athletes receive the comprehensive coverage they deserve.

Best of luck to everyone this week! Let’s play ball!

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached via e-mail at sports@messengernews.net, or on Twitter @MessengerSports