Spring sports forced to ‘roll with’ the weather

The spring sports season began over three weeks ago, and every high school outdoor game and meet has been canceled due to the unending winter weather.

When asked how this has affected the athletes’ practices, where practices are being held and how the athletes’ morale is holding up, coaches from North Branch and Rush City high schools responded.

“The morale has been pretty good considering. I think it helps knowing everybody is in the same situation,” North Branch softball coach Ron Trunk said.

“We have been able to simulate some things inside, but it’s hard to simulate tracking fly balls inside. We have been out on our field twice, once only on the outfield and once the whole field before weather pushed us back in. We also made use of the middle school bus coral a couple of days.

“I hate to say how make-up games will affect things. We have only had two of the nine postponed games rescheduled. We do have seven games scheduled from April 26 through May 1, including the two rescheduled games that will stress pitching. My guess is not all games will be made up,” Trunk added.

Rush City track and field coach Mike Vaughan:

“We have been inside way too much. I worry about injuries on the hard surfaces. Jumpers can’t do much.

“We have brought them to our aquatic center for some workouts. They can not really get any steps. We have done everything we can inside. We have alternated days between varsity and junior high. We get on the track even when only parts of it are exposed. Little work done on events like discus and pole vault.

“Our kids are feeling the strain of only practicing. I feel really bad for the seniors having this many fewer contests. Most of the meets are canceled because schools do not have room in their schedules to make them up.”

Rush City baseball coach Kevin Smith:

“The amount of work you can do inside is limited due to space. The hitting in the cage is good. Actually the batter will get more swings versus outdoors due to the balls all stay in the cage. The pitchers can throw from the correct distance, but they are not on an elevated mound, so it is quite a bit different. They cannot work on pickoff moves to the bases as the gym does not allow proper infield distances to be set up.

“The kids are ready to go crazy after these weeks in the gym. We have not been out at all.

“Our athletic director has informed us that we may be playing double headers in a lot of our games, and the two teams may decide on either five- or six-inning games rather than the usual seven innings.

“Starting pitchers are always the strength of any high school team and having multiple games in a week is not an advantage to most teams and probably is a distinct disadvantage to most if not all teams. The one positive may be that an inexperienced pitcher will be asked to pitch more now with the games tightly bunched than if they were spread out as originally planned.

“This is a season to remember as I have never seen one start so late in my lifetime.”

Rush City golf coach Jeremy Albright:

“We really haven’t gotten a lot out of practicing inside. We have two nets that we can hit into, and we have a little section that we can putt on. It’s OK for a while at the beginning of the season, but it gets old fast. We also struggle for space along with the rest of the spring sports.

“We are at the point now where we might be doing more harm than good. They are hitting a ball into a net 5 to 10 feet away from them. I can’t get a feel as to what their ball flight is going. Is it straight, slicing or hooking?

“We have not been able to get outside for any practice time yet. There isn’t an indoor facility anywhere near here, so that’s out of the question. The only thing that gives us hope is that all of the golf teams have to deal with the same issues, unfortunately.

“I worry the most about our new athletes. I hope they don’t think that this is the way it is every year We’ve accepted the fact that there is nothing we can do about it. We just have to roll with it.

“Mr. Schlagel has been working hard trying to figure out a schedule for all of our spring sports, and Mother Nature keeps throwing us curveballs.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with our schedule. I already know we have lost some that we won’t be able to make up. Right now, my focus is on trying to figure out how to get our kids physically and mentally ready to go in a short amount of time. When we finally do get outside we will have to get a ton of practice in the days we are able to be out to the course. I ask for patience from the golfers.”

Rush City softball coach Kim Erdman:

“At the beginning of the season, I like having indoor practices and working on mechanics. However, by this time of the season, we should already have in eight games, and we would be working outside on the field on the things that need tweaking before playoffs. There comes a point to where too much practice inside can be counter-productive, so we are trying to be mindful of that.

“We have been in the parking lot hitting flyballs three days so far, and we have been on a grassy area for two days. We cannot get on to our field as it is way to wet, and we would end up ruining the infield. We rotate practice times with baseball, and at times have golf and track working in similar areas, so it can be challenging.

“The postponements have not affected the athletes physically, but mentally it is taking a toll on everyone. Softball is an outdoor sport, and the kids want to be outside. They are disappointed not to be playing games, but they also realize that other teams in the area are in the same situation, and we have to make the best of things. I got a good group of positive, veteran girls, so that makes it bearable, and they lead the way and set the tone for practices. There are a lot of friendships on the team, so that keeps the morale positive.

“All the teams in the area will be in a similar situation, so we are not at any more of a disadvantage than any other team we will be playing. My players will not allow excuses to be used if we don’t perform on the field the way we are capable of performing. We have depth in most positions, so if someone does get tired, we have others to step up and fill that position. Once we get the season going, time is going to go fast, so we have to be ready to hit the ground running once we get on the fields. I have no doubt in my mind that once game time is here, my girls will be ready.”

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