High school sports

Persistent rain, unplayable conditions keep athletic directors on toes

Due to difficult spring weather, Maine Principals' Association extends diamond seasons
By Mark Haskell | May 10, 2017
Artwork by: Samantha McPadden

The first few weeks of the high school spring sports season has presented its share of challenges for Midcoast athletic directors, with postponements and cancellations of events running rampant with steady, consistent rain in the forecast.

Throughout the Courier Publications/VillageSoup coverage area, which spans from Searsport to Waldoboro encompassing nine high schools, dozens of postponements and cancellations have come through for tennis, baseball, softball, lacrosse and outdoor track and field.

With numerous schools throughout the state in the same “boat,” so to speak, the Maine Principals’ Association announced on Monday, May 8 it would extend the regular season for baseball and softball from Wednesday, May 31 to to Friday, June 2.

The baseball and softball playoffs still are slated to begin on Tuesday, June 6, with the state championships slated for Saturday, June 17.

For tennis, Thursday, May 25 is the last countable day, with team playoff matches to begin on Tuesday, May 30.

Lacrosse has a 12-game regular season and access to more artificial surface fields, making rainouts less of a scheduling concern.

For outdoor track and field, meets typically are cancelled or postponed, with the focus being more on qualifying individuals for conference and state championship meets than on regular-season win/loss records.

“We see similar conditions each spring, but never for this long,” said Medomak Valley athletic director Matt Lash. “I have worked through three-four day stretches in the past, but in my 14 years, this has been the most challenging. It is such a short season. When you start the season like this, it makes it harder for the athletes and coaches later on.”

Camden Hills athletic director Steve Alex agreed, as he said his baseball and softball teams “have two weeks that we are not having to play four games in a week,” when two or three games is more the norm.

“The coaches, student-athletes, fans, and officials have been very understanding with the daily changes,” Alex said. “The scheduling book already has a number of changes on dates that were already make-up dates. Attention to detail is very critical as the numerous changes continue to happen.”

It is often more work than just postponing a game. Mount View athletic director Chris Moreau said his daily checklist over the past few weeks has been informing the opposing school, secretaries, office support staff, coaches, game workers, athletic trainers, officials, media, school staff and the principals, in addition to updating their athletic website and arranging buses for transportation.

“It has been challenging, but manageable,” said Moreau. “We have been able to reschedule everything thus far without many issues. [The timing is] getting a little tight though.”

In some cases, such as tennis, indoor venues are options. Alex said his teams are “so fortunate that we have the generosity and support of the Midcoast Recreation Center to help us maintain our schedule as close as possible."

Other local tennis teams also have had matches moved indoors as well.

The Belfast boys and girls played Lincoln Academy of Newcastle in a doubleheader on April 28 indoors at Central Lincoln County YMCA in Damariscotta, while the Medomak Valley and Oceanside girls tennis teams played a match there as well on May 5.

In an effort to accelerate matches — either to beat incoming rain or to accommodate indoor facilities — teams have shifed to pro-set matches, as opposed to more traditional three-set matches.

For many, the struggle is not merely the safety concern of playing in rain and inclement weather, but the fields themselves.

“The fields never completely had the chance to dry out before we got on them,” said Lash. “We have had a lot of rain since March and never had a warm dry stretch. The ground is so saturated, it can't drain. Typically, it is just the infields that you tend to. The grass is just as bad.”

So much so that Lash was forced to move the scheduled May 9 Medomak Valley softball game with Lincoln Academy from its varsity field to John Foster Little League Field in Waldoboro.

For baseball, the struggle has been perhaps the greatest as teams look to balance their pitching rotations with the MPA changing the rules from inning limits to pitch counts this season.

“It’s not as bad for softball, but in a small school, baseball pitching is hard to come by, especially with the pitch count now,” said Searsport athletic director John Williamson. “My coaches are not happy, but there is a lot I can control [and] weather isn't one of the things.”

If the weather continues and postponements continue to pile up, desperate times may call for desperate measures.

“I have not had to use doubleheaders in the past to make-up games, but to get them all in, everything will be on the table,” said Lash. “If things change, we have time to get things caught up. If they don't, you have to get them in any way possible. Toward the end of the season, that may mean doubleheaders and/or giving up home games if the opponents facilities are in better shape. That is a last resort, but we do it.”

According to weather.com focusing in Camden — the most centralized town in the Courier Publications/VillageSoup coverage area — there will be some form of precipitation in the forecast every day until Wednesday, May 17, which may or may not affect upcoming events.

"April and early May are typically a wet, cool, and cloudy time of year, but 2017 has been above normal in these departments with a steady stream of storm systems supplying wet weather to the Midcoast," said VStv Chief Meteorologist Tyler Southard. "Over the past month, rainfall totals have averaged around one inch above normal. While this doesn't seem like a lot, it is enough to keep soil saturated during a greater number of light rain events."

Despite that, while their collective resolves are being tested daily, athletic directors are remaining positive — and remain prepared to react to any curveballs that may come their way.

“We all know that schedules are being adjusted and we will do our very best to ensure that we are putting our best foot forward,” said Moreau.

Extension of high school baseball, softball seasons
Maine Principals' Association extends high school baseball and softball seasons. (Video by: Zack Miller of VStv)
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.

Staff Profile

Mark Haskell
Associate Sports Director
594-4401, ext. 116
Email Me

Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School. He has won multiple Maine Press Association awards for writing and photography.

Mark loves the Boston Red Sox, iced coffee, cargo shorts and time with friends and family.

He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.

Recent Stories by Mark Haskell