The weight of expectations can be a burden, but only if you let it.
The Solon Spartans haven’t let it.
“We don’t talk about it,” said Spartans Coach Ben Sorden. “We talk about controlling the controllable.”
Solon (32-6) has been the wire-to-wire No. 1 team in Class 3A softball. Four of the Spartans’ losses have come against 5A top-10 teams (Des Moines East, Pleasant Valley, West Des Moines Valley and Cedar Rapids Jefferson). The other two came against 4A top-rated Clear Creek Amana.
Tuesday, the Spartans open regional play with a quarterfinal at home against Mount Vernon (11-25). First pitch is 7 p.m.
“Mount Vernon is going to be an improved team since we played them last,” Sorden said. “I think Robin (Brand) is a good coach, and she’ll have them ready to play.”
Brand is in her first year at Mount Vernon, succeeding the late Gary Stamp.
The Highway 1 rivalry will be in play Tuesday, plus the target-on-the-back aspect that Solon encounters as the No. 1 team.
“We’re going to get everybody’s best, every night out,” Sorden said.
Depth is Solon’s strength. Six players are batting .425 or better, and the pitching rotation of Arran Weeces, Emily Ira and Holly Hinkel gives Sorden multiple options in the circle.
Solon is one of two ranked teams in 3A Region 5; No. 12 Center Point-Urbana is the other. The Stormin’ Pointers (22-9) open with Oelwein (7-28) at Center Point.
Among other area ranked teams in 3A, No. 4 Mid-Prairie (27-11) hosts Williamsburg (15-23) in Region 7, and No. 6 Monticello (34-5) entertains Valley-Postville (9-24) in Region 4.
Mid-Prairie is aiming for its third straight trip (the Golden Hawks were third in 2A last year). Monticello is the Tri-Rivers Conference champion and has the most wins of anybody in 3A.
Class 2A regionals open Tuesday with first-round games. Most of the top area teams (including No. 6 Jesup and No. 15 Iowa City Regina, the defending 2A state champion) have first-round byes and begin at the quarterfinal round Thursday.
Jesup pitcher Kelsey Lough reached the 100-win plateau earlier this season. She is a junior.
CLASS 3A REGIONAL QUARTERFINALS
(All games, 7 p.m.)
Osage at New Hampton
Waukon at Crestwood
Dyersville Beckman at Cascade
Valley-Postville at Monticello
Union at Independence
Oelwein at Center Point-Urbana
Camanche at Northeast
Mount Vernon at Solon
West Liberty at Davenport Assumption
Louisa-Muscatine at Wilton
Columbus Junction at Mediapolis
Central Lee at West Burlington-Notre Dame
Davis County at Centerville
Albia at Clarke
South Tama at Monroe PCM
Williamsburg at Mid-Prairie
CLASS 2A REGIONAL FIRST-ROUND
(All games, 7 p.m.)
West Fork at Northwood-Kensett (North Butler, bye)
Nashua-Plainfield at Saint Ansgar (Central Springs, bye)
Clayton Ridge at MFL MarMac (North Fayette, bye)
Turkey Valley at South Winneshiek (Sumner-Fredericksburg, bye)
Waterloo Columbus at Grundy Center (Ackley AGWSR, bye)
Wapsie Valley at Gladbrook-Reinbeck (Conrad BCLUW, bye)
Starmont at Hudson (Denver, bye)
Dike-New Hartford at Aplington-Parkersburg (Jesup, bye)
Maquoketa Valley at Alburnett (Edgewood-Colesburg, bye)
North Linn at Iowa Valley (Iowa City Regina, bye)
Tipton at Highland (West Branch, bye)
Bellevue at North Cedar (Durant, bye)