Mother Nature’s winter joyride through the region over the past several weeks has migraines for spring sports coaches across Bladen County.
“I’ve been coaching 37 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said East Bladen baseball coach Russell Priest. “This weather pattern has really hurt everyone, and it’s unusual that it’s lasted so long.”
Although the constant rain and cold has affected softball, soccer, golf and tennis, it seems that baseball is getting short-changed the most.
“It puts us so far behind,” West Bladen baseball coach Kim Cain said. “And without indoor cages to hit in, that becomes a real problem. We can do some things, but it’s not like getting on the field for practice and getting into game situations.”
The inability to practice outdoors before and after the season began offers up only the first challenge for local teams.
“There’s no substitute for getting out on the field,” said West Bladen softball coach Pam Stephens. “You can work on things in the gym, but until you can consistently can outdoors, it’s not the same.”
None of the teams have been able to play this week, and Friday’s scheduled games are likely to be rained out as well. That creates the second major challenge for teams: makeup games.
“Having games stacked up will challenge everyone’s pitching staff,” Priest said. “It affects us a lot.
“It’s almost like football weather, really,” he added.
“Having to play three games a week or having five-inning doubleheaders later in the season really hurts a young, thin pitching staff like ours,” Cain said.
For Stephens’ Lady Knights softball team, however, she said makeup games won’t affect them negatively.
“I’m actually glad we have some extra time (for practice), even if it is indoors,” she said. “And I don’t think it’s so bad to have games bunched up. I’d rather we play games than practice.”
Fortunately, the weather forecast is calling for clearing skies and warmer temperatures starting Saturday. And looming on schedule for varsity baseball and softball teams is the Four County Conference openers on Friday, March 14.
East Bladen baseball will host Union High that day, while West Bladen softball and baseball will travel to face Midway.
East Bladen soccer teams also open conference play next Friday, with the Lady Eagles hosting Union and the Lady Knights traveling to Midway.
Tennis opens play Monday, with East Bladen hosting Clinton and West Bladen hosting Wallace-Rose Hill.