Snow halts first week of high school spring sports season

Snow clings to the baseball field at 1st Bank Park in Strasburg on Friday evening. Area athletic directors are struggling to reschedule spring sports events after snow and cold temperatures this week brought events to a standstill . Rich Cooley/Daily

Local high school athletic directors were treated with mild weather during the winter sports season. As it turned out, Mother Nature was simply saving all of the fun for the spring.

In an inconvenient piece of timing, a winter storm that swept through the area and dropped several inches of snow earlier this week arrived just in time to put a halt on the spring athletic schedule before local schools could get things rolling. The spring season, which officially began on Monday, did not start for area schools until Friday when a few tennis teams were able to hit the courts for the first time.

“It’s obviously been a bad time,” Skyline High School athletic director Bill Cupp said Friday. “We were getting ready, the kids were excited to get the season started and then it didn’t even get started. The weather had been really nice and the kids and coaches have been excited to get to practice outside, and everything was going the way you wanted it to go. Just about the time we get ready to play games the storm came through and wiped us out, and they’ve been in the gyms for a week. … It’s been frustrating all around to say the least.”

Cupp had to reschedule 10 varsity and seven junior varsity games this week due to the snow, which still blanketed much of the area Friday afternoon as temperatures neared 50 degrees.

Warren County High School has already postponed 16 games (10 varsity), while Sherando activities coordinator Jason Barbe had to reschedule 12 varsity and nine JV contests over the past five days.

The three Shenandoah County public high schools – Central (eight  postponements), Stonewall Jackson (four) and Strasburg (seven) – brought this week’s total to 73 postponed games among the six local schools, including 45 varsity contests (the spring sports season includes baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, track and field and boys and girls tennis).

“The good thing is it’s early,” Barbe said. “I would a whole lot rather deal with just the first week of the season than a rainy spell in late April or early May when you don’t have time to do things. It’s unfortunate. We’re backed up a little bit but I don’t think it’s bad yet, where I’m overly concerned about it.”

Temperatures are projected to hover around 50 degrees throughout the weekend, but snowmelt and the threat of rain will keep the status of next week’s games hazy until Monday.

Both Barbe and Cupp said they couldn’t say with confidence on Friday that they expect to be able to start playing games early next week, and a glance from Central athletic director Kenny Rinker at the school’s baseball field on Friday left him with uncertainty as well.

“When I left school today we still had snow on the grassy areas. It is melting but the one thing that I did see when I left and went by the baseball field was that the entire infield was covered with water,” said Rinker, who’s baseball team is scheduled to host Skyline on Monday.

Though most of the postponed games from this past week have already been rescheduled, Cupp said he has to be careful to schedule games so as not to “overtax” his student-athletes, particularly in baseball.

The new Virginia High School League baseball pitch count rules this season prohibit pitchers from throwing more than 51 pitches over two consecutive days and require up to four days rest depending on the number of pitches thrown during an outing (players can throw no more than 110 pitches on a single day), meaning teams playing more than three games per week will be stretching the limits of their pitching depth.

Skyline and Strasburg are each scheduled to play three baseball games next week and Central and Stonewall have four each (they meet in a doubleheader of two five-inning games next Friday, the result of this past week’s postponement).

Sherando, meanwhile, is scheduled for five baseball contests next week, including a makeup of last week’s postponed matchup against Broadway and a doubleheader against Martinsburg (West Virginia) next Saturday.

“Baseball and softball, we are gonna be pushing it a little bit but we typically always schedule heavy in the early part of the spring for the simple reason we’re probably gonna miss some (games). What you can’t do is sit on open dates this time of year,” Barbe said.

“Both (baseball coach Pepper Martin and softball coach Clarence Smith), I discussed with them what our options are and they’re both of the attitude let’s play ball. We carry a full roster for a reason.”

Barbe added that he has a scheduling plan that he’s confident in, at least until the next bout of poor weather arrives – “We’re sitting in a place where if we could get a couple good weeks of weather we would back in real good shape,” he said – but Cupp said that the early elimination of a full week of athletic events leaves Skyline with little wiggle room in the future, a problem that could be compounded if teams can’t get on the field early next week.

“We need to get started. … You can’t get finished if you don’t get started,” Cupp said, “and what’s gonna end up happening, we’re gonna end up losing games and it’s gonna come to a point that we just won’t have any way to play all the games safely.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com