High school spring sports

Athletes lament: Snow, snow go away, come again — next winter

Coaches, athletic directors try to adjust to unplayable field conditions, schedule changes
By Mark Haskell | Apr 10, 2019

The seemingly annual late-spring snow has, yet again, thrown a monkey wrench into the plans of Midcoast high school athletic directors and coaches as they try to prepare teams and student-athletes for the rigors of the quickly-approaching regular seasons.

With spring weather upon us and mid-50s weather throughout the region on Sunday, April 7, many woke up Monday, April 8 with school being canceled due to significant snow — and plans for the continuation of the preseason and start of regular-season sports for many schools — altered.

Mother Nature essentially threw the Midcoast a hard-to-adjust-to snowy curveball.

“The Midcoast went through weather whiplash this week after spring-like weather over the weekend was followed by a return to winter,” said Courier Publications/VillageSoup chief meteorologist Tyler Southard. “Cold air spilled back into Maine Sunday night setting the stage for back-to-back snowfall events as quick moving systems passed through New England. This led to three to six inches of accumulation Monday and an additional one to two inches Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.”

Like most schools, Medomak Valley has canceled and postponed its share of events. The boys tennis squad’s home-opener at Erskine Academy of South China on Thursday, April 11 has been postponed as Panther athletic director Matt Lash said, “They have five inches of snow on their courts [in South China]."

Too much snow

Lash also canceled round robin baseball and softball play days on Saturday, April 6, the softball game on Wednesday, April 10 with Nokomis of Newport and road game at Oxford Hills of South Paris on Thursday, April 11.

He said the softball team’s play day at South Portland, scheduled for Saturday, April 13, “is in serious jeopardy.”

“Like most schools, we have yet to get onto the fields,” said Lash. “Who would have thought that in a winter in which we had little snow, that we would be dealing with this?”

Lash said he “turned over” the high school softball and baseball fields this past weekend. But, after Monday's and Tuesday’s snow, Lash said, “We would need three or four days of 60s and sun” to be able to have those teams be able to practice on their home diamonds.

He added tennis and track — the latter of which primarily practices in the gym this early in the season regardless — “will be OK,” but hopes his baseball and softball teams will be able to hit their respective fields on Friday, April 19 when the school’s junior varsity teams host Poland.

The Medomak Valley baseball and Belfast softball teams, at least, are in the midst of trips to the south — Florida and South Carolina, respetively — to prepare, so the Panthers and Lions will be ahead of the game as other Maine squads wait for their fields to become playable.

Good, then not so good

Camden Hills athletic director Steve Alex said the early-week snow “was a setback when I actually was thinking that we were in better shape this spring then previous years.”

“I feel very fortunate that we found a window of opportunity to get our home baseball and softball scrimmages in last Saturday,” he said. “[And] our lacrosse teams were able to get a preseason event in with opponents that had turf.”

Since then, the school’s opening varsity tennis matches against Bangor — scheduled for Thursday — have been moved to May 1, the boys lacrosse team’s scrimmage with Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield on Wednesday, April 10 was canceled and the girls lacrosse team’s play day with Boothbay Region and Mount Blue of Farmington, scheduled for Friday, April 12 “will be made up at a later date after spring break.”

Alex said the track team is “now back inside for their training as the track is now once again covered with snow.”

“If it were not for the generosity of [Midcoast Recreation Center], our tennis teams would be weeks behind in their training to prepare for the season,” he said. “Our courts sit in a shaded area that gets very little sun and are far from being playable."

The Camden Hills baseball and softball preseason games scheduled for Friday, April 12 at Mount View of Thorndike, also have been canceled.

“The latest snow has really hurt,” said Mount View athletic director Thomas Lynch. “We were very encouraged that after the warm breezy weather on Saturday that our fields would be ready to go by mid-week. Now we have had to cancel all of our scheduled preseason games and now looking at practicing inside until at least mid-week next week. Right now we face the possibility of going to Washington Academy [of East Machias] a week from Friday [for our baseball and softball regular season-openers] with little or no outside practice time. This is Maine, however, and we will persevere.”

"Worst weather I have seen"

At Oceanside, the Mariners have had a bevy of cancellations and postponements, including a softball play day at Brewer (canceled), an girls road tennis match at Winslow (moved from April 11 to April 12), a track meet at Oxford Hills (moved from April 12 to April 23) and its season-opening baseball and softball games on Wednesday, April 17 — previously at Maranacook of Readfield — have been moved a few miles down the road on the same date to the turf fields at Kents Hill School.

“It’s tough, but everyone is in the same boat,” said Mariner baseball coach Don Shields. “We are trying a couple of things to attempt to simulate game situations as best as you can in a gym and hope we get out soon. If you do this long enough, you learn that Mother Nature is undefeated.”

Mariner softball coach Rusty Worcester said "this is the worst weather I have seen in the 20-plus years I have coached."

"It definitely affects the development of your young players," he said. "I have six freshmen and was going to move them around to see what position they could possibly help the team. It's extremely difficult to do it during the regular season. A mistake during a countable game could cost the game."

"Mother Nature has delivered us a tough hand, [but] all we can do is be positive and we will get outside when she allows us," Worcester said.

Vikings hope to land

Searsport has its own specific set of problems as the varsity baseball and softball teams — in addition to the middle school squads — share fields.

“It's already a tight fit when things are working out in ideal conditions,” said Searsport athletic director Josh Toothaker. “A simple need to move a game throws the balance off and everything becomes impacted, not only at the team level, but the transportation and facilities departments take a brunt of that stress as well.”

Toothaker added the optimist in him hopes his teams can get on the fields early next week — and for its home-openers on Wednesday, April 17 against Stearns of Millinocket — “but I am also ready to accept the reality that with the melting and the rain that is forecasted that we may have to change that as well.”

“There aren't many alternatives in the area that are clear to play,” he said. “So moving to a third party site isn't in the cards either as they have the same problem.”

Belfast also has canceled all remaining preseason baseball and softball games, the boys tennis team's Thursday, April 11 season- and home-opener has been postponed as has the school's home track meet scheduled for Friday, April 12, which will take place on Monday, April 29.

It is what it is

Lion baseball coach Chris Lavalle said it "has been a definite struggle," particularly in keeping the student-athletes focused.

"They’re working very hard in the gym and cage and we have had the opportunity to do a lot of foundational stuff," the first-year coach said. "It’s been more of a challenge for me, as a coach, to be creative, as there are a finite number of things that we can do with the limited time and space."

“Although April snow is not unheard of around these parts, the likelihood of snowfall events diminishes as the month of April progresses,” said Southard. “The snow will be quick to melt over the coming days as temperatures rebound into the 40s, 50 and some 60s through the late week and weekend, with two rain events on the way. The downside of this will be a soggy and muddy turf.”

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