FORT DODGE, Iowa -- A leisurely stroll around the grounds of Rogers Sports Complex here in "FourDodge,''
The game was invented in Chicago in 1887 and was meant to be played indoors.
It became softball in 1926.
Chicago may have been the mother of invention, but, arguably, Iowa made it famous.
The high school version, generally, and the Girls High School State Championships in particular have been contested in "Little Chicago" for 48 years.
And in the great outdoors, of course.
The Girls of Summer write historic chapters of an intriguing story every year, brightening the dog days going back to 1957 when Somers Cedar Valley won a four-team event and then Argyle, Carson-Macedonia, Lime Springs and Arispe finished 1-2-3-4 in 1958.
Fort Dodge claims a "Little Chicago'' nickname, as does Sioux City.
The crime here is that neither city has produced a state prep softball champ.
- When this tournament was a 16-team, one class affair each team was guaranteed four games and you played back to a 15th-place game.
You might be 25-0 going in and 25-4 leaving town. Some schools have finished both first and last in the summer classic. This year, though, the sponsoring Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union eliminated fifth- and seventh-place games.
Among the reasons -- poor attendance and consolation games sometimes went past midnight. The IGHSAU didn't have to buy 20 extra place trophies (or plaques), either.
All the players, though, got one of those bright yellow softballs.
The decision overall was a prudent one, although not embraced by one and all. The coaches pretty much advocated the reduction of games.
- What towns without pity in sports can do.
Well, try banding and bonding together and play for state titles in all sports, not just softball.
Benton Community school, which wound up an also-ran in the Class 3A tournament last week, is made up of students from eight, that's right, eight communities.
The school, eighth seeded here, lost to the top seed, Davenport Assumption, in the first round.
Benton won the 3A state title in 2016 and the 2A crown 20 years ago. Benton has also won state girls track and field team championships.
The high school is in Van Horne, which won Iowa's girls state basketball crown in 1962 and have also won prep baseball titles.
The other towns feeding the district are Norway, Keystone, Blairstown, Elberon, Watkins, Atkins and Newhall. Former Outland Trophy winner Chad Henninngs (Air Force and Dallas Cowboy) is a graduate of the school.
Before joining Benton in 1991, Norway High, as you well know, won several baseball titles and was featured in the well-received Final Season movie starring Powers Booth and Sean Astin.
The school district is the second-largest in the state (square miles) to Western Dubuque in northeast Iowa.
You might remember, Benton lost to Kingsley-Pierson in the eight-team summer state tourney in 1967 after edging K-P in the title game the summer before.
- Another chance.
The Davenport Assumption team that trimmed Roland-Story in the 3A title game took a 44-game winning streak into the regular season and stretched the streak to 55 before losing to Pleasant Valley.
The two 2017 state champs, Pleasant Valley in 5A, would end up meeting three times with three losses accounting for Assumption's setbacks in a 39-3 campaign.
Plleasant Valley,as did Assumption, returned eight starters and clipped Indianola in the 5A title game for its second straight championship.
- A Sioux City school has never won a girls state softball championship.
North came closest in 2008 as the 4A runner-up to West Des Moines Valley in a drenching rain-shortened non-classic.
Do you suppose the reason that Sioux City's demise in the sport has somewhat declined since fast-pitch men's and women's softball began in steady slide into oblivion in Our Town around the turn of the century?
- In case you haven't' been counting, old Leeds High grad Frank Huston now leads active softball coaches in the Hawkeye State with 1,824 triumphs (second all-time in Iowa, too) , most of them at Ottumwa High.
His Ottumwa team lost 3-2 to eventual state runner-up Indianola in a regional final, the third time Indy had won showdowns featuring the two during the season, and finished 28-12.
- Grand performances.
Two of Iowa's winningest coaches met in a first-round Class 4A duel of a couple alphabet schools -- ADM and DC-G Dallas Center-Grimes coached by Steve Schlafke, was 1,214-801 in 43 years, 16 at DC-G.
Meanwhile, Adel-DeSoto-Minburn's Rick Dillinger, was 1,171-554 in 42 years, but just five at ADM.
Libson's Bob Bunting, in his 49th season, all at the suburban Cedar Rapids school, was 1,162-624 after his team lost to eventual state champ Collins-Maxwell in the 1A semifinals and outlasted Akron-Westfield in the third-place game.
Bunting was recently named national softball coach of the year by the National Athletic Coaches Association.
Longevity, at least with state tourney coaches, isn't trending, as they say.
Next in line on the state tourney win list this summer were Tom Bakey at West Des Moines Valley and Sergeant Bluff-Luton's Tom Prince, Bakey now has 831 wins in 22 seasons.
Prince, who has announced his retirement, was 696-263 after SBL won its opening game, then lost in the 4A semifinals to eventual champ Des Moines Hoover and to Newton in the third-place game.