What had originally been scheduled as a leisurely holiday weekend for Wyoming Valley Conference baseball has turned quite busy indeed.
No league games were scheduled for Friday, but Saturday suddenly has turned into a full slate of games. Twelve of the league’s 18 teams will be on the diamond for WVC games today.
As usual, Mother Nature has been the culprit.
Entering the weekend, league games have already been postponed a total of 45 times — a fairly ridiculous number, even when factoring the usual disagreeable April weather in the region.
Some games have been pushed back as many as three times. And the venues often change overnight, with schools swapping host sites with each downpour or overnight freeze. Certainly Tuesday’s sleet and cold did no favors for anyone, wiping out all games on Tuesday and Wednesday with fields still in need of recovery time.
Amazingly, Crestwood still has yet to host a WVC game because of field conditions. The Comets, who play at the Mountain Post Legion field in Rice Township, are 1-3. A handful of other schools have only played one league game at home thus far.
GAR kept its home date with Meyers on Thursday, but the game was played on the adjacent junior high field because it held water better than the varsity diamond at Coal Street Park.
Really, just about every team and coaching staff could offer a horror story — though Wyoming Seminary is a bit better off this spring because the Blue Knights’ field at revamped Nesbitt Stadium is turf.
With all of the disruption — teams have also had their practice schedules drastically affected — it’s no surprise that a few senior-laden teams have had the best starts.
Through three abbreviated weeks of the season, only Hanover Area in Division 3 has an unbeaten WVC record, sitting at 5-0.
With eight seniors on the roster and seven regulars from a year ago still in the starting lineup, the Hawkeyes have been able to recover fairly well from the chaos created by the weather.
“Being experienced like we are — not that we don’t need the outside work, but guys have that experience where teams might be struggling a little bit with the weather.
“I’d say, yeah, (it gives a slight edge). With the group we have, not being outside hasn’t been the end of the world.”
Regardless of experience level of their respective teams, nearly every coach in the league has made some strategic changes because of the situation.
Taking into account the open tournament that District 2 runs, there is less pressure to rush players onto the field or jump ahead of schedule given that every team is guaranteed a trip to the postseason.
Hazleton Area and Meyers both had to wait for some top players to join their teams full-time because they were helping their schools make deep runs in the basketball state tournament.
Cougars fireballer Sal Biasi nearly willed his hoops team into the PIAA quarterfinals but fought through a high ankle sprain in the process.
As such, the Hazleton Area baseball staff wasn’t going to rush him back into the batters box or onto the basepaths, especially on fields comprised of equal parts mud and grass.
“First and foremost, our goal is to always win the conference, and I would never try to diminish the quality of this conference,” Cougars coach Gino Cara said of Biasi’s lightened workload in the early going. “But I also, long-range, want to make sure he’s healthy. If you’re on mud or a soft turf, you could lose him for the year.
“He’s just too valuable on the mound, in the field and with the stick to take a chance with it early on.”
Biasi has resumed his normal duties this past week, working his way back into the lineup while playing second base and also working as a starter and a reliever on the mound.
Likewise, Meyers had to wait to get leading hitter Matt DeMarco back from the Mohawks’ trip to the state semifinals.
His first start on the mound was cut off at around 45 pitches after two innings just to be safe. This week, however, he went one out short of a complete game and also played a full contest at shortstop.
And with many teams having their exhibition schedules wiped out entirely by weather woes, it affects preparation for the start of the league schedule.
“It takes time,” Meyers coach Matt Skrepenak said. “The first couple of regular season games, you’re going to treat as your scrimmage games. You’re going to try to be as competitive as possible, but then again, trying not to do anything to injure any players because of lack of time on the field, time on the mound.
“You just want to be careful and make sure you don’t over-throw kids, you don’t bring damage to any arms and you ease yourself into the season. With the preseason, that’s easy to do. With no preseason, it’s going to take time.”