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Local Sports

First time for most, first time in a long while

Next week will be a new experience for all of the Newton High softball players and most of the Cardinal fans — an Iowa high school state softball tournament. One of the Cardinal coaches has played in the state tournament, but none have coached a team in the state tournament.

Newton High’s softball program has made the trip to Fort Dodge for state tournament competitions twice.

Once upon a time, Iowa had a fall state tournament and a summer state softball tournament — 1957-1987.

The Cardinals finished fourth in the 1983 summer state softball tournament. The 1986-87 Newton High softball team competed in the fall tournament.

Newton High head coach Casey (Grimes) Price was on both of those Cardinal teams. She pitched as a senior in the fall tournament. Two of the current Cardinal players had mothers who played on one of the two teams.

Iowa’s high school softball state tournament is different now than when Price and the others competed. All schools regardless of size were in one classification for softball from 1957 to 1993. The final fall state tournament was held in 1987.

From 1994-2003, there were three classifications then it went to four from 2004-2011. Since 2012, there have been five classifications for high school softball in Iowa.

One constant for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s state softball competitions is the state tournament has been at Harlan Rogers Park in Fort Dodge since 1970.

It’s not my first time at an Iowa high school state softball tournament. In my five years at the Newton Daily News, I’ve covered Lynnville-Sully softball on a three-year run from 2013-15.

“Getting your team to gel at the right time and have it playing its best when postseason comes around is what you strive for,” Price said. “The teams playing the best at this time advance to state.

“We know we belong in this field of tough 4A teams. We just have to do what we do best in next week’s tournament.”

Price may not have coached at an Iowa high school state tournament, but she brings plenty of postseason playing and coaching experience to the Cardinals. She’s coached at the high school and college level plus she was a starting player for the University of Oklahoma.

Price’s coaching staff includes her father, Gary Grimes, who is a former NHS head softball coach (2007-12) and a college assistant coach. Also on the staff are former NHS players Caitlyn Meyer and Lizzie Stock.

This group of coaches have helped the 2018 Cardinals hone their skills. Newton has posted a 24-7 record so far which is the most wins for a Cardinal softball team since 2009. The 2009 team went 24-11 under then head coach Gary Grimes with Meyer as a senior catcher.

A group of six seniors lead the Cardinals into the state tournament along with a strong junior class.

Of the Cardinals’ seven losses, three came at the hands of 5A state tournament qualifier Indianola. The other four were to 4A teams — three ranked. All the losses came in Little Hawkeye Conference play.

When Price says “do what we do,” she means play small ball at the plate mixed with some power to fire up the Cardinals’ offense. They use bunts and slap hits to take advantage of team speed, putting pressure on teams’ defenses with aggressive base running.

Defensively, the Cardinals strive to play clean ball in the field behind their pitchers. Newton has only 28 errors as a team this season.

Then the Cardinals have two solid junior pitchers to throw in the circle. It’s what they do — hit, pitch and play defense.

Enjoy this experience Cardinal players and coaches. Enjoy this time with your teammates. Enjoy this experience Cardinal Nation. See you in Fort Dodge on Tuesday.

Contact Jocelyn Sheets

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