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Forecast iffy for start of spring season

Published: Monday, March 17, 2014 10:18 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 17, 2014 10:24 p.m. CDT
(Mary Beth Nolan for Shaw Media)
Softball players warm up while practicing inside a field house Monday during practice at Batavia High School. Snow remains on the Bulldogs' field forcing practice to take place indoors.

Despite the brutal and extended winter weather, some local coaches and athletic directors are cautiously optimistic many outdoor spring events will be played as scheduled, beginning this week.

Several girls soccer games are scheduled to be played today, with baseball, softball and boys tennis also slated to start rolling soon.

While some games might go on as scheduled, the level of play could be another matter. Most area teams – especially those without turf fields – have had to conduct preseason practices indoors exclusively, limiting the productivity of workouts.

There was substantial snowfall as recently as last week, but the short-term forecast is somewhat encouraging for the cabin fever to break for area teams.

“I see some 50s and upper 40s in the forecast of the next five to seven days, so if we can get a couple days of 40s and 50s accompanied with some wind, we should be able to get outside at least to practice, and then usually by spring break, which is in two weeks, hopefully we can [play a baseball or softball game] or two,” Batavia athletic director Dave Andrews said.

The field conditions threshold for playing soccer isn’t quite as high as baseball and softball. As of Monday afternoon, Andrews didn’t rule out the Bulldogs girls soccer team opening its season as scheduled tonight against visiting Plainfield Central.

St. Charles East girls soccer coach Paul Jennison is optimistic the Saints’ season will begin tonight considering East is scheduled to play at Fremd, which has a turf field.

Jennison said having too many early-season cancellations would wreak havoc with girls soccer.

“Everyone is up against the same problem so I can’t imagine people will be too keen to cancel a game simply because of what it’ll mean [toward the end of the season],” Jennison said. “We’d have a real congestion at the back end of the season. I don’t think anyone would want five, six games in a week because that will ruin the quality, and the chance of injury would be too great.”

St. Francis softball coach Ralph Remus said his Spartans might not be able to play until their spring break trip to Florida at the end of March. They have a home game scheduled for next week but, for now, Remus said there still is snow on the diamond.

“I just question whether the field will be ready next week,” Remus said. “You’ve got to get the frost out of the ground, otherwise [the field] gets all squishy and you can’t play on it. There’s still hope for next week but I think this week for sure we won’t be out there.”

Batavia softball’s infield is a crushed limestone surface, which handles moisture better than traditional dirt infields, but would not be immune to the effects of another cold blast.

“The number one thing is always safety,” Andrews said. “We’re not going to put our student-athletes out in conditions that aren’t safe or are going to hurt them. Rock hard, frozen isn’t safe; muddy, sloppy wet where you could possible slip and tear or do whatever to your body, obviously we’re not going to do that as well.

“... Anybody that plays spring sports in Illinois knows conditions aren’t going to be ideal to start, but then as spring progresses, it becomes better and better. We’re just looking for playable conditions.”

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