Friday, March 28, 2014

Inclement weather, pitching woes to separate WPIAL baseball and softball teams

This week marks the official beginning of WPIAL baseball season and in a rare update, we have not exactly seen the winter weather many expected. While snow or rain have not fallen (during game time), chilly temperatures have forced the postponements of many games during the first week of the season. McGuffey head softball coach Bill Loar called into the O-R’s office last night to report his team’s score and while he was relieved to get a game in during temperatures in the low-30’s, his message echoed the sentiment of many: "We got out there, but maybe we shouldn’t have played after all."

It’s a shame that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us this unsettling weather early in the season, but this waiting game that players must endure could very well separate contenders from pretenders once the month of May rolls around. How a team reacts to the frustrations of not playing can say a lot about how they react to high-pressure situations later in the season. Last year, Canon-McMillan head coach Frank Zebrasky motivated his team through the early part of the season, which included struggles at a Myrtle Beach Tournament and postponements, with the result being a section title. It’s a shame that players are forced to simulate game situations on the hardwood floor of gymnasiums, but perfecting the art of a double play and practicing signals could make the difference between a win and a loss.
I do admit that I was surprised of the postponements over the past two days. The sun was out on Monday and our friends at Under Armour created a product that makes playing in cold weather bearable, but it’s the wind that makes playing a bad idea. The last thing a team needs is its starting pitcher getting frost bite because of the weather. While it’s difficult waiting around and hearing results of other games, players need to practice patience.

This time of the year can be terribly discouraging but only a few weeks, this weather should subside and section play will be heating up. Unfortunately for WPIAL baseball teams, the race for the section ground can be won or loss in a matter of weeks. Getting simulated reps indoors during this time will pay off once it’s time for significant games to be played.

Weather aside, the one thing that has become apparent during the first week is that pitching will separate good teams from great ones in both softball and baseball. That seems like common sense, but some teams are hanging their hopes on offense while banking on the pitching to work itself out. As the season progresses, the standings will show which teams have the pitching to play deep into the month of May. Even Canon-McMillan’s softball team, which made a historic run toward the Quad-A state title last season, has questions surrounding its pitching staff. Time will tell whether an underclassman or a JV player from last year has the ability to take the mound or circle for a playoff run.

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