NORMAN — The rain may have stopped the Heartland Classic for a day, but the tournament goes on.
For an event with such a tight window to finish thanks to teams traveling in from out of state, the storms that rolled through central Oklahoma on Thursday created a unique problem. The round-robin portion of the tournament was scheduled to finish Thursday night before the playoff part of the event began, but the day lost to the rain pushed tournament officials to a crossroads.
Tournament director Garry Armstrong and his colleagues were forced to decide which part of the tournament they would rather preserve, and that led Armstrong back to the values that have been in place since the tournament began five years ago.
“The philosophy of the Heartland Classic since its inception has been to have every team play each other,” he said. “The round robin is the biggest key. Right now we’re left with some of our key matchups unplayed.”
With that in mind, tournament officials and coaches got creative when they met Thursday night to iron out the final two days of the tournament. Thursday’s games will instead be played today, and the first round of the tournament bracket has been slashed so that instead each team will play at least one game at L. Dale Mitchell Park at Oklahoma on Saturday.
Assuming today’s games go off without a hitch, the new schedule for Saturday has the six and seven seeds playing at 9 a.m. at OU, and the winner of that game playing the five seed at noon. The third and fourth seeds will meet at 3 p.m., and the title game will be played following that.
It’s possible that more rain could cloud the schedule today, but Armstrong is confident that they will be able to play the games between the three sites available. Norman North has a tarp for the infield, while Norman High and Southmoore both have turf that should dry quickly after overnight rains.