Weather Taking Toll On Spring Sports

April 18, 2018 GMT

Mother Nature is no fan of spring sports in the Wyoming Valley Conference.

Tuesday produced another near-total washout, in which snow flurries and rain showers accompanied a 39-degree high that passes for the day’s low on average.

“Spring is just a very challenging time of the year in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Nanticoke Area athletic director Ken Bartuska. “It seems like every year we say, it’s worse than the year before. But I can’t really compare this to anything else.”

Crestwood softball coach Adrienne Bannon is getting results from her 2-1 team, but they haven’t come easy.

The Comets’ first outdoor practice was Friday, as it’s a constant challenge for coaches to come up with fun and meaningful drills when there’s only so much that can be done inside a gym.

“As a coach, it’s tough to keep them interested, motivated, doing different things,” said Bannon, who played high school softball at Hazleton Area. “We try to have fun. We try to play games. We have team competitions, throwing competitions, running competitions — any silly, little things to motivate them.”

Par for the course, Crestwood is two league games behind schedule.

Through Tuesday, the WVC had played only 73.3 percent (33 of 45) of its regularly scheduled baseball games, 67.3 percent (33 of 49) in softball, and 62.2 percent (28 of 45) in boys tennis.

Such failing grades are not for lack of trying.

“If it didn’t rain like it did (Monday), we would have been all right,” said Lake-Lehman athletic director Jeff Shook, whose school postponed two home softball and baseball games already this week. “With the nice weather we got over the weekend, it really helped. And it was windy, so that really helped. But then that rain — an inch of rain — did not.”

The off-and-on, good-then-bad weather patterns have forced athletic programs to get creative with their practices and game schedules.

“The worst thing about it is: there’s no rhythm,” said Holy Redeemer athletic director J.P. Aquilina. “You’re outside for one day and then you’re inside for the next two or three days.”

Taking stock of Redeemer’s teams Tuesday, Aquilina said the baseball team practiced on the batting cages at The Next Level in Kingston; the boys volleyball and softball teams practiced back-to-back at the high school gym; the boys tennis team braved the cold with an outdoor practice; and the track & field team competed on Berwick’s synthetic track.

Valley West softball coach Jessica Ras has taken advantage of several of her school’s venues, practicing at Spartan Stadium and the home field on Third Avenue, as well as inside the middle school and high school gyms.

“The weather this season has been like no other,” said Ras, who played at Valley West and East Stroudsburg.

At Nanticoke Area, the Trojans have played all their exhibition baseball games on their home field. There, the Trojans have a drainage system in its third year of operation, which, combined with the maintenance staff, gives them a playable diamond even after rain or snow.

The Trojanettes’ junior-high softball team, however, hasn’t been so fortunate.

Having made their home at Wanamie Rec Park — which doesn’t drain well and has an infield so muddied that staff has been unable to work on it — the Trojanettes have upgraded to play a handful of games at the varsity softball field.

Lake-Lehman has lucked out with at least two of its teams, boys and girls lacrosse, each of which are on schedule thanks to the turf surface on which they play.

“The only bad thing is the cold games for the kids right now,” Shook said. “But we’re very fortunate to have the turf.”

Even the baseball and softball teams, according to Shook, compete for practice time on the black turf.

Home to the only turf softball field in the WVC, Wyoming Seminary possibly benefited from the rough conditions in the first week of the season when it won two games in a row.

“Playing our rival, Northwest, I think we might have had a little more field time than them, especially on the turf,” said Sem head coach Steve Mytych. “But, lately, this mid-stretch of the season — we’re playing three to four games within five days. I think not only is it tough for us, but it’s tough for every team in the league, especially when you rely on pitching.”

Come game time, practically nobody — from those in the stands to the sidelines to the field — wants to play or risk injury in the cold weather or on a subpar field.

So, it helps that the local athletic directors and coaches cooperate with one another.

“Our Wyoming Valley Conference athletic directors really work well together,” Aquilina said. “Everybody knows we’re in the same boat, and we’re here to help the kids out and be there for the kids and not put them in any bad situations.”

Perhaps, the region is ready to move past this extended stretch of poor weather.

According to Accuweather.com, next week’s forecast calls for highs of 66, 65, 62, 61 and 62 Monday through Friday in Wilkes-Barre.

However, that wouldn’t put all the complications to rest, as, along with rescheduled games, proms, National Honor Society events and field trips enter the picture in the final weeks of school.

“Early on it’s the weather,” Bartuska said, “and later on it’s the activities.”

Contact the writer: mbufano@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2060; @CVBufano on Twitter