By Brad Fauber
Mother Nature has done it again.
On a day that many people around the country were celebrating the green of St. Patrick's Day, the area's high school baseball, softball and soccer fields were swallowed under yet another thick layer of white, as this season's harsh winter dropped the latest blanket of snow across the area on Sunday and Monday.
Monday was supposed to represent the official start of the spring sports season for the area's high schools. Those spring teams will have to wait.
"The kids put a lot of time into preparing for the spring season, and we've had a bit of a false start," Skyline athletic director Bill Cupp said on Monday afternoon.
Skyline, which was supposed to open the spring season with a full slate of games on Monday, was one of a handful of local schools to have the season debut put on hold.
The Hawks were forced to postpone their baseball, softball and boys and girls soccer games scheduled for Monday evening against Luray, as well as boys and girls tennis matches with Central.
Central was also forced to postpone its home baseball and softball games against Stonewall Jackson on Monday, and Sherando's crop of games -- baseball, softball and boys and girls soccer -- against Potomac Falls were all wiped out, as were Warren County's baseball and softball games at home against Loudoun Valley.
Things also look bleak for the remainder of the week, although it's a possibility that some soccer and tennis matches could be held as scheduled on Thursday and Friday, according to some local athletic directors.
The most recent winter storm, which dropped up to a foot of snow in some areas, came in the final days of what has been one of the most active winters in recent memory.
"It's not technically spring yet, but I can't recall it ever snowing this number of times in late February and early March," said Sherando baseball coach Pepper Martin, who has coached at the school since it opened in 1993. "When I was a younger coach I would always get upset about missing practices ... but I finally realized after all these years that you can't control it and everyone else is in the same boat."
Most high school spring sports teams have been practicing for several weeks, but much of that time has been spent indoors as the poor conditions of playing fields has prevented much on-field practice time.
Martin said Sherando's baseball team has only been outside on several occasions -- twice for scrimmages and once on one of the fields at Sherando Park -- but has yet to hold a true practice on its field at the school.
The same holds true for most teams in the area.
"We've been outside some, but we didn't get our scrimmage [at Page County on March 11] in, so when play it will be our first live action," said Warren County baseball coach Vernon Mathews, whose team was also supposed to host George Mason on Tuesday.
Most of the area's spring teams have been relegated to their respective school's gymnasium, forcing multiple teams to have to share indoor space in order to accommodate every team. But that process has gone smoothly for area schools so far.
Central AD Kenny Rinker said the Falcons have been using the gymnasium at nearby Peter Muhlenberg Middle School to help alleviate some of the crowding, and he said the coaches have done a good job planning out their schedules in a cooperative manner to help prevent conflicts over practice times.
Cupp said Skyline has also found ways to ensure everyone gets the necessary practice time.
"We do what we can, which is gymnasiums, some teams run in the hall," Cupp said. "We have a cafeteria that is pretty large, so we do what we can in there. It's not the same, obviously. You can't really practice tennis in a cafeteria, but that's what we've had to do."
Rescheduling games will also present some challenges, more so for some sports than others. Baseball in particular could be impacted the most, as the stricter pitching limitations that the Virginia High School League installed last season could create problems for coaches if teams are forced to play three or more games in a given week.
Rinker also said postponements present a whole new set of challenges for schools like Central that try to schedule at least one game against each conference opponent in addition to the required two games against each district foe. He said it only gets harder to reschedule those conference games once the season stretches into April.
Still, there isn't much that anyone can do but sit and wait for the snow to melt and the fields to dry out.
"We'll get it in," Cupp said of Skyline's makeup games. "It might not be perfect or the most ideal ... but we'll get it done in a way that best suits our kids."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org