The weather situation has gone from a little annoying, to somewhat concerning to downright drastic.
Here’s how bad it’s gotten: Area baseball and softball teams began practice 28 days ago (as of Monday) and have conducted zero practices outdoors and played exactly one game combined between the eight clubs. For most teams, the final contest of the regular season is slated for May 18, meaning even if they hit the diamond Wednesday, which they won’t, players will have spent three times as many days practicing indoors than outdoors by the end of the season.
Golf teams probably won’t tee off on their respective courses until late next week, at the earliest, and will have to squeeze an entire season into less than three weeks.
For Owatonna tennis, it’s even more severe. The Huskies have already had three competitions postponed and could have two more matches suspended by the end of the week. According to the MSHSL, the Huskies’ final regular season matchup is scheduled for May 8 against Mankato East.
The regular seasons for lacrosse and track and field conclude May 24 and there is no telling when they will get going, though it’s much easier to conduct a track meet with a little snow on the infield as long as the surface is dry.
With another 3-6 inches of snow projected on Wednesday from here to the far north suburbs, further action by the MSHSL appears inevitable. The League has already enacted a rule that allows teams to reschedule games to a single date and permit two, five-innings contests as opposed to two seven-inning games on separate dates. So far, the Owatonna softball and baseball teams have both taken advantage of this rule.
There are also discussions being had about how games are counted in the Big Nine Conference standings.
“Our conference is discussing if we should alter some of our All-Conference [and] standing requirements,” Owatonna Activities/Athletics Director Ryan Swanson said. “For example, both games count for boys and girls lacrosse [and] we are considering dropping the need for both games and just make one count.”
That’s a good start, but what else can be done?
For starters, I think all upcoming nonconference games should to be cancelled for baseball, softball and lacrosse. This would free up dates for the current backlog of early-season “TBD” postponements and perhaps allow for some much-needed practice when the weather finally starts to cooperate later this month.
Secondly, all baseball and softball contests should be moved to doubleheaders. Having two separate dates occupied to play one team seems silly at this point.
The MSHSL might also have to temporarily re-consider its pitch-count rules for baseball. The current policy, which was enacted before last season, states that pitchers are required one full day of rest after throwing 31-50 pitches, two days for 51-75 pitches and three days for 76-105. No individual is allowed to throw more than 105 pitches in a single day.
Permitting 12-15 extra pitches per threshold could go a long way in allowing smaller schools with a limited number of capable arms to survive the super-condensed season. If not, area teams like Blooming Prairie, Medford and NRHEG — which have half the combined enrollment of Owatonna High School by itself — could be staring down a schedule that features five games per week for three consecutive weeks. That’s a minimum of 25 total innings in a seven-day span. Yikes.
With state tournament venues being booked years in advance into a tight and fixed window, moving these competitions is out of the question.
Like it or not, teams will have to shoehorn an entire regular season’s worth of competitions into as little as two and a half weeks.