Weather putting damper on spring schedules

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nearly every year at around this time, the weather starts to mess with people's plans for outdoor activities after hibernating inside during the long winter months. If you follow high school sports - especially baseball and softball - you know this is especially true this year.Inclement weather washed out a handful of scheduled games around the Kanawha Valley on Tuesday and it was not an isolated incident. There have been very few days where cold, rain and even snow have not played a part in scheduling, which is causing headaches for coaches trying to get games played when they can.Poca baseball coach Gene Estel said the Dots have only had to postpone three games so far, but with all of them being Cardinal Conference games (including Tuesday's scheduled game against Herbert Hoover, which will be made up April 2), the weather has made finding time to play the games particularly difficult."I looked at my schedule and we have four off days that are not Sundays between now and the end of the season," Estel said. "A couple of more rainouts and we'll have to start canceling [non-conference games] to make room for conference games if the weather doesn't give us a break."Estel said the weather this season has been much worse than it was a year ago."Last year spoiled us," he said. "It was the end of April last year before we canceled our first game for weather. It's not been this bad in a while, but we're all in the same boat. Some of the guys with [artificial] turf might get a couple more in but not really. We've got a tarp and a turf mound and turf plate that helps us a little."It's not just the scheduling that makes the poor weather a pain for coaches. When it rains or snows, that forces baseball and softball teams to retreat inside and off the field for practices. While there are things that can be worked on indoors, Estel said it is just not the same as working on grass and dirt."There's only so much you can do inside," he said. "You can only hit in a cage so long and take so many ground balls on a gym floor. You still don't get the real feel of it you do outside. We can't get in a rhythm. We play four or five times a week and now we play one with three or four days off. We just can't get in any kind of rhythm."
Perhaps the biggest problem with having to find time for postponed games is the fact that the baseball and softball seasons are much shorter than other sports.According to the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, baseball teams were allowed to play their first games on March 13 with the sectional playoffs scheduled to begin May 6 - a span of just seven weeks. For softball, teams were permitted to begin playing regular-season games March 13 with sectionals scheduled to begin a week before the baseball playoffs on April 29.Because of the narrow window teams are working with when there are no weather problems, Estel said finding an agreeable day and time once a game has been postponed is increasingly difficult."It's hard enough to match up dates due to weather," he said. "I have four days that might not match up with days the other teams have."The forecast does not look good for the third week of the prep baseball and softball seasons, but there does appear to be several days that could provide good enough weather to get games in. According to the forecast for the Charleston area, flurries are in the forecast today and rain showers are expected Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week with temperatures remaining in the 40s and 50s.Reach Tom Bragg at 
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