By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Liberty played its season opener last Wednesday, beating defending Class AA state champion Wyoming East 9-8.
Twenty minutes after the last out was recorded, it started snowing — and seemingly has not let up since.
Two weeks into the season, area teams have been frustrated by a winter that just won’t leave. Outdoor practices have been scarce, and games in some cases have been even more rare.
“I have never seen it like this,” Liberty coach J.J. Tabor said. “I remember some flurries during games here and there, but I can’t remember a time when school was canceled after the games had started.”
Frustration and boredom set in with players long ago, and coaches are having to get creative to keep things fresh.
“We have some little competitions between each other and some team competitions, like you have to reach so many hits before you can leave the (batting) cage,” said Shady Spring coach Dave Shaw, whose team played its first game last Saturday at Riverside. “Little competitions just to keep things alive. It gets monotonous hitting off the tee every day and doing soft toss every day. They get bored, so you have to do little things to keep them going.”
Tabor, in his fifth season at Liberty, has given his players a day off each of the last two weeks just to break the doldrums of trying to practice in the gym. But he also has tapped into his creative side to make things fun.
“We divide them up into teams and have a wiffleball World Series,” Tabor said. “They absolutely love it and the intensity is high. Neither team likes to lose. They go at it. It’s fun to watch, because it gets monotonous doing the same thing day in and day out.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum is a team like Valley. The northwestern part of Fayette County hasn’t had nearly as much accumulating snow as southern West Virginia, and the Greyhounds have reaped the benefit.
“We have been fortunate. I would say we were able to get outside eight or nine times before we played our first game,” said Valley coach Joe Craffey, whose team is 4-1. “It’s not always warm, but we always have a good breeze coming in off the (Kanawha) river, and our field drains well. The only dirt we have on our field is around the bases. Since we did that seven or eight years ago, we have been able to play a lot more games than we were in the past.
“Anytime we can go outside, we go, regardless of the temperature. There are only so many things you can do in the gym.”
Shaw said there are two silver linings to the situation for his team. One, most of the Tigers’ games against sectional and regional teams are intentionally scheduled later in the season, reducing the possibility of them being lost to winter weather. They will lose today’s game against Greenbrier East, but the damage has at least been minimal.
The second? That comes next week, when the Tigers play at Myrtle Beach during spring break.
“We have the beach trip to look forward to,” Shaw said. “Everybody has been checking the forecast and the kids know it’s going to be right around 70, the high 60s, and we will likely get to play all week.”
That’s next week, hundreds of miles away. As for here, it looks like the rest of this week has been wiped out. Snow is predicted through Wednesday, with a weekend warmup. Even then, fields will be a muddy mess after the snow melts.
Keep those wiffleballs handy.
“We just do our best to deal with it,” Tabor said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
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