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Lingering winter puts kink in spring sport schedules

By , Sports Editor  |  Wednesday, April 24, 2013 7:45 PM

Sports fans are familiar with the sounds of spring: birds chirping, lawnmowers humming, the crack of the bat and the track meet’s start gun piercing the air. This spring has provided anything but those sounds, yielding to whining over the amount of snow that has forced Tommie sports teams to adjust their schedules.

The extended winter weather has affected spring sports schedules. This has left both coaches and student athletes alike struggling to find practice time and fill out their schedules.

“This spring has been by far the worst,” St. Thomas softball coach John Tschida said in reference to the weather. “This has been the only year where there is a threat to not get a lot of the conference games in.”

The view from home plate at a snow-covered Koch Diamond April 23. The No. 4-ranked baseball team has not played a game in 17 days. (Ross Schreck/TommieMedia)

Koch Diamond was covered with snow Tuesday. The No. 4-ranked baseball team has not played a game in 17 days. (Ross Schreck/TommieMedia)

Tommie baseball and softball teams have been challenged to fit games in this spring with postponements leading to long breaks between games. The baseball team has not played a game since the April 7 11-2 win against St. Mary’s. In that game, St. Thomas was the away team on its home field due to flooding on St. Mary’s field in Winona, Minn.

“It’s always disappointing when a game gets postponed due to weather conditions, and it is bound to happen once or twice in a Minnesota spring,” third baseman Jack Hogan said. “But to have nearly two weeks of postponements has been pretty frustrating, and all of the guys are itching to get outside into some decent baseball weather.”

Typical spring-like weather temperatures are expected to hit the 70-degree mark by Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather prompted the MIAC to change the baseball schedule altogether. As of April 18, only seven of the conference’s 30 doubleheaders had been played. Four of those were moved to the visiting team’s diamonds.

The baseball team’s final push features 15 games in 10 days to finish the season before May 10, the MIAC conference tournament’s start date.

With postponements and a condensed schedule on the horizon, the No. 4-ranked baseball team has spent most of the season in practice. Even with the constant changes, the team remains focused.

“All of the guys on the team understand how important it is to come focused every day and get their work done,” Hogan said. “Our coaches have stressed that it is important to get something out of these indoor practices in order to be prepared for the crowded schedule once the weather clears up.”

The Anderson Field House has been busier than expected this spring, accommodating spring sports seeking refuge from the cold temperatures and precipitation, Facilities Manager Dave Lepp said.

“We’ve always had inclement weather scheduled for, but typically its once a week or once every two weeks,” Lepp said. “But then we get those three snowstorms back-to-back-to-back and that set everything back to a whirlwind where you have to schedule everything and move everything around so everybody’s inside.”

Lepp said each team is allotted a two-hour window inside the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. Men’s and women’s tennis practice together; the same goes for the track and field teams.

“I’ve never had a year like this where we had that many snow-outs,” Lepp said.

For the conference leader and No. 15-ranked softball team, practicing and game-planning still remain a point of focus despite the unpredictable spring.

“There are a lot of questions as to what time we will practice, what indoor space we will have and whether or not we will be able to go outside,” Tschida said. “We still need to do our scouting reports and practice plans for the opponent we think we will have each day.”

Postseason plans

The softball postseason schedule will be different this year. Instead of the normal four-team, double-elimination tournament, a one-time concept allows 12 teams a chance to play on May 3. Teams will be seeded 1 through 12 and placed into four different pools. Each pool winner advances to May 4-5 semifinals and finals to determine the MIAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“We just have to take it day by day and be ready to play if the weather permits,” shortstop Jenna Hoffman said. “On days that Mother Nature goes a little crazy, we take advantage of our practice time to get ourselves playoff ready.”

This time last year, Tommie baseball had completed 30 games; softball 36 games. This year, just 20 and 30 games respectively.

Baseball and softball are not the only sports affected by the sloshy April. Both tennis teams have been confined indoors for all of their conference schedules thus far. Weather has forced track and field invites to be canceled or moved indoors. The men’s and women’s golf team’s only spring matchplay was on their spring break trips in March.

Golfer Michael Mortenson said the team is using a golf simulator and off-campus facilities to stay sharp.

“It has been very frustrating to say the least,” Mortenson said. “Our team has been working very hard in the offseason to prepare ourselves for a run at nationals. We are just eager to see this hard work pay off.”

With the inevitable onslaught of games coming, teams will be presented with the challenge of keeping players healthy and rested.

“It’s important to be in shape for the upcoming slate of games, mostly to prevent any injuries that have happened or could happen due to cold weather conditions,” Hogan said. “Guys know what they need to do to keep their bodies and injuries in check.”

Mortenson said it will be important to remember that the weather isn’t only affecting St. Thomas’ teams.

“We are trying our best to stay optimistic and realize there are lots of teams in the same boat,” Mortenson said.

Ross Schreck can be reached at schr8250@stthomas.edu.

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