Learning curve for Fairfield at Ottumwa Classic

Jul. 3—OTTUWMA — It’s never too late in the season to learn according to Fairfield softball coach Bob Bradfield.

With just one double-header left before the start of the postseason, Bradfield and his group got a chance to face high-level competition at Huston Field on Friday and came away with an appreciation for what the level of competition could be in a matter of weeks.

“It’s always good to see good teams this late in the year,” Bradfield said.

The Trojans were one of five teams to play in the 47th annual Ottumwa Classic on Friday, with Fairfield coming out of Ottumwa with a 11-1 win over Southeast Polk and a 11-0 loss at the hands of Ankeny. Three of the four opposing teams in the Ottumwa Classic had records above .500 and were at least second in their respective conferences coming into Friday.

Fairfield had come into the day winning its last six games, scoring 10 or more runs in five of its last six games. And that trend continued in the first game of the Ottumwa Classic between the Trojans and Southeast Polk.

Fairfield would go on to win the opener 11-3 over the Rams, thanks to a flurry of hits up and down the lineup, as well as five innings of work from starting pitcher Coty Engle.

Engle, a sophomore, worked around multiple jams in the opener, with the Rams treating with runners in scoring position throughout. Luckily for the trojans, Engle and her defense stayed steady, leading to missed opportunities for the Rams.

Southeast Polk left the bases loaded in the first inning and left eight runners on base in the loss.

The aforementioned offense for Fairfield scored at least two runs in each of the first four innings, including three base hits and three RBIs from Engle. Junior Jenna Norris reached base all four times with a single, two walks and a two-run double for the Trojans.

Fairfield’s offense had 10 hits, four walks and three doubles in the 11-3 victory.

“We knew Southeast Polk was a pretty good team, so seeing the bats fly like that felt good,” Engle said.

The comfortable win gave Fairfield some added confidence going into the second game of the day against Ankeny, a team who just recently fell out of the top-10 in 5A.

But the confidence wouldn’t be enough against the high-powered Hawks. Fairfield would go on to lose 11-0, putting up one hit as an offense thanks to Norris hitting a single in the first inning.

“We had a good start to the day. We got a good decisive win,” Bradfield said. “Then we had a bad decisive loss.”

The scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story according to Bradfield and his team, who point out that Fairfield and many other schools can’t go the whole season without having to face quality completion. The loss is not that ideal outcome, but Bradfield saw the game two defeat as not a complete loss.

“It doesn’t hurt that we saw [good pitching vs Ankeny],” Bradfield said. “We have to see it sooner or later.”

Offensive adjustments will have to be made before the season enters its new chapter, and Bradfield said it might’ve taken a loss like Fairfield had to Ankeny as a way to get there faster.

The 11-0 shutout was the eighth time the Trojans were shut out this season and drops their record to 20-12 on the season.

Engle agreed with her coach’s reasoning after the loss to the Hawks, adding that tough losses strengthen the good teams, not bury them.

The sophomore said Fairfield will have to adjust at the plate and bring more confidence when facing high-level pitching and offense like Ankeny showed. And she’s optimistic they’ll figure out what they need to with only two games left before the real drama unfolds.

“I think it was good to see them [Ankeny] to get a taste of the postseason,” Engle said. “We learned some things and we saw that kind of pitching before we might see it again.”

Fairfield will head back home to close out the regular season with a double-header against the Keokuk Chiefs Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Matt Belinson can be reached at mbelinson@ottumwacourier.com.

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