Campus News

Winter weather throws a curve at baseball and softball teams

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Bethel College’s baseball and softball teams have waited a long time to get back to playing on their home fields, but they will have to wait a little bit longer than scheduled due to the prolonged winter weather. While softball has already had to cancel their home opener that was scheduled for March 14, the prospects are not looking good for the baseball home opener on Thursday, March 20. Not only is the weather wreaking havoc on the schedules, but it is also affecting the motivation of the teams. 376“Mentally, it’s affecting us in the fact that you’re still seeing snow on the ground,” said Bethel baseball head coach Seth Zartman. Zartman acknowledged that even though winter weather is expected in northern Indiana, it makes it difficult to keep players motivated. The weather, as Zartman explained, can wreak “havoc on their heads” because it cuts into the amount of time the players have to play baseball. The baseball team has 36 games scheduled for the rest of the regular season, but in league play, there are only so many days scheduled to get a series in. This makes it difficult to be able to play every opponent, regardless of the winter weather. “If we don’t play them, we’re going to lose them,” said Zartman. This means that if Bethel doesn’t get to play the scheduled games with an opponent during the specified amount of time allotted by the league, those games will be cancelled and Bethel won’t have the chance to play that opponent. For baseball, the schedule is structured so that the team plays a two-game home series and a two-game road series back-to-back against the same opponent. The case is slightly different for softball, as the home series and the road series are split up within the season. Softball is scheduled to play a home series and a road series against the nine other teams in their league within two-three week cycles. This gives the softball team a better chance at facing all of their scheduled opponents at some time during the season. In addition to schedule concerns, both teams are struggling to make the most of practices, which are still being held indoors despite the coaches’ wishes. “Our goal is to be outside once we come back from spring trip,” said Zartman. At the latest, he hoped to be practicing outside by the third week of March, but because of the weather, the team “won’t be out there anytime soon.” Bethel softball head coach Megan Smalley-Hastings also wanted to get her team outside after their spring break trip and remarked that after spending seven weeks practicing indoors, it is “hard to stay motivated and come up with new drills” for the team to do indoors. Prior to their spring break trip to Arizona, the girls spent one and a half to two hours practicing indoors, but Hastings has now cut practices back to one hour sessions. Bethel is not alone in trying to deal with the difficult weather. “All the teams in our league are struggling with the same thing,” said Hastings. “We are battling the same demons right now.” Both Bethel baseball and softball teams play in the NAIA Crossroads League and face opponents from Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, all of which have been hit hard by the winter weather. According to the National Weather Service, the South Bend area received 84.8 inches, or just over seven feet, of snow from the beginning of December to the end of February, which is well over the average amount of snowfall of 52.9 inches. Though temperatures are slowly beginning to rise, that doesn’t mean that the baseball and softball fields will be ready for play as soon as the snow melts. “Even when the snow melts, the ground has to dry first,” explained Hastings. She is hoping that the sun will stay out for long periods of time over several days to help speed the drying process up. Once the snow melts, Zartman expects the baseball field to “soften in a lot of areas, especially in the infield.” He said that the infield will be the biggest issue, but that the outfield only needs a few decent days to ready it for play. Zartman remarked that the field drains well and that the dugouts have remained relatively unaffected by the snowfall. Once the team gets outside, they will get to clean things up and, finally, get to play baseball outside again. “They don’t care how cold it is,” said Zartman. “They just want to get out there and play.” According to Hastings, “excited” is an understatement when it comes to the attitude that members of Bethel's softball team will have when they get to “finally be outdoors and be on dirt and grass” again. Zartman and Hastings have high hopes for their teams this season, and were able to see improvement throughout their spring break trips. The baseball team’s record is currently 2-11, and the team is looking to extend its two game winning streak as it enters into league play. The softball team sits at 4-6 after a strong final game in Arizona where they defeated the University of Great Falls 9-1. As the snow melts and the teams are able to begin their home schedules, both Zartman and Hastings urge Bethel’s student body to attend games and support the teams.  
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