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Mother Nature is throwing area high school spring sports teams a nasty curve

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 17 April 2018 at 8:31 am

Photo by Mike Wertman – Monday’s steady rain did nothing to help the playing conditions of area diamonds like this one at Lyndonville.

After a long winter most everyone no doubt looks forward to spring – sunshine, warm temperatures and a chance to enjoy outside activities.

Unfortunately, as is all too often the case in Western New York, Mother Nature doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with the calendar much to the dismay of area high school spring sports teams, and this season has been no exception.

Monday’s steady rain, which washed out over a dozen local baseball and softball games and tennis matches, follows up on last week’s series of rain, snow and wind postponements, all of which has left the early season schedules disrupted to say the least.

Those Monday rainouts included the Albion vs. Roy-Hart, Medina vs. Newfane and Wilson vs. Akron Niagara-Orleans League baseball and softball games as well as the Lyndonville vs. Notre Dame, Kendall vs. Elba and Alexander vs. Holley Genesee Region League softball contests.

And the forecast for the next few days puts a big question mark over the schedule for the rest of the week.

“The weather this spring (as well as last year), has definitely presented many challenges with regards to scheduling contests,” said Medina High Athletic Director Eric Valley. “The number one priority is the safety of our student-athletes.  As the spring rolls along that may mean that we will not be rescheduling some of the non-league games in order to get all our league contests completed.”

“I feel the worst for the players and coaches who are left with the uncertainty of what each day has in-store for them, a game or another indoor practice,” said Albion Athletic Director Randy Knaak. “The biggest frustration with this type of Spring is making sure that all of the changes are confirmed with the players, coaches, assignor, umpires, grounds crew, transportation, supervision, parents, and the athletic trainer.  Albion is very fortunate to have an outstanding grounds crew who is provided with all the necessary equipment and materials to keep our fields up and running during these difficult times. ”

Unfortunately, ever since the sectionals were expanded to open sectionals and the state playoffs were started the regular season has been condensed and pushed up earlier on the calendar which makes getting games in at a time of spring when the weather is most unpredictable a real challenge.

Now leagues such as the local N-O and G-R are playing league games before April 10 because the seeding meetings for sectionals are in mid May. This season, for example, the cutoff date for playing league baseball games in Section VI is May 17 with the season ending meeting slated for that same day. Sectionals are slated to begin on May 18 with the class finals on May 24 which is the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend.

The situation for baseball teams has become even more critical with the addition of a much needed pitch count rule last year. That certainly compounds the problem for coaches trying to have enough pitching in a compacted regular season. And when coaches have to add fitting in makeup games because of weather postponements the problem is really magnified.

Akron varsity baseball Coach Greg Bell has voiced the opinion that the section should return to a schedule where league games would be played up until the Memorial Day weekend and sectionals held after the holiday.

In light of the combination of a compacted schedule, pitch count requirements and uncertain weather that is certainly a suggestion that it seems would go a long way to easing the situation. It would not only give leagues more days to get their games in but would also allow them the opportunity to start the league season a bit later when the chance for better weather improves.

In addition, returning to the old Section VI rule where teams had to have a .500 league record to qualify for sectionals could also help ease the situation. By decreasing the number of teams involved it would reduce the number of rounds needed and thus reduce the length of the playoffs..

Valley rightly notes that “the league schedules are generated almost a year in advance so it is very difficult to predict when conditions will be ideal to be competing safely outside.  As a league there have been many discussions about when the season should be started and when sectional play should begin.  The state sets all the dates for the state tournaments, then the section decides when we will begin our play based on that.  As a league we are at the mercy of the schedules given to us by the state and section.”

He adds, ” I have not been involved with any of the discussions at the section level, but I know that this has been a concern.”

Area N-O and G-R diamond coaches are no doubt hoping that by the time the next full round of games are scheduled on Wednesday that the weather will be improved enough for those contests to be played.

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