MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Wednesday was originally scheduled to be the opening day for all spring sport contests around West Virginia. 5-time defending Class AAA state softball champion Hurricane was set to open their latest title defense Friday against Spring Valley.
The Redskins, like every other high school sports team in West Virginia, are waiting in the on deck circle for activities to resume due to the COVID-19 virus.
“The limbo is the hardest part right now,” said Hurricane head coach Meghan Stevens. “We are trying to keep the girls focused and hopeful and keep their spirits up. I have six seniors that are just hoping and praying that we got a shot at a postponed or shortened season. We don’t care what it is. We are just hoping that we get to play.”
And it isn’t just games that are on hold. All extracurricular activities are halted until at least April 10th. That means players can’t practice or work out at school or team facilities. Stevens is encouraging her team members to stay as sharp as possible during the downtime.
“Working in small groups, going outside, working on their long toss as much as possible, hitting off a tee, taking some front toss — just really doing anything and everything. It is kind of like back to the offseason, pre-workout phase.”
Preseason practices were put on hold after most teams were able to get about two weeks of drills in.
“Since we were able to get in ten practices beforehand, I would think most of us, if our girls worked out three days we could be ready to go and pick up where our schedule is. I don’t know if that would be focusing on our conference games or just pick up our schedule from there and running with it. But we would need some time to get back into it.”
“Right now, I would just be happy with anything. I have six seniors and I can’t stomach the thought of them not being able to put their uniform on again and to take the field with their teammates.”
Based on the traditional schedule, all rounds of softball playoffs (sectional, regional, state) are double-elimination. A single-elimination format in any of those three rounds could significantly reduce the window of time needed to determine champions.
“That’s tough because if we don’t have that much time, single-elimination would really put your girls on the spot. Because usually you have two months to prepare (for the playoffs). I would be in more favor, especially at the sectional level of double-elimination. But I would be open to single-elimination if that is what we had to do.”
With their recent run of success that has seen the Redskins win six state titles in seven years, Stevens has led several players that are competing at top level college programs. All NCAA spring sports have been canceled this season with athletes owning the option to take an additional season of eligibility.
“When it first came out, I was thankful that none of them were seniors. But we were all super devastated for them and we were all anxious to hear about the NCAA’s ruling on eligibility. All of them were having outstanding years. All of them were starting and producing at their teams — Katie Adams at Marshall, Jayme Bailey at Virginia Tech, Kiertsen Landers at Florida State, Taylor McCray at St. Leo and Paige Scruggs at West Virginia State. To have it end so abruptly, I know they were at a loss too.”
“It is my hope that the high school season can get back together and that we can bring those alumni back together to have something for us to look forward to and to be hopeful about.”
If the season can eventually get started, Stevens is confident that this year’s squad can play to the standard of teams that preceded them.
“We will be a much different type of team this year. We will be much more defensive-focused. Of course we will have Harlie Vannatter back in the circle as one of the best pitchers in the state. Of course we graduated a lot of home runs but I have girls stepping up with pop and power at the plate.”
Even with the uncertainly swirling around the status of the season, Stevens continues to look forward to the day when she can lead her team back on the field.
“That makes me emotional just thinking about it. We have run the gamut of emotions from sadness to anger to denial. It would be a really joyous and happy occasion and we would all be very thankful to lace ’em up and put the Hurricane Redskin jersey on. That would be something special.”