Benefield: Rain wreaks havoc on area high school baseball schedules
In a recent, rare break in the rain and on a day that practice didn’t get canceled or moved inside, a Rincon Valley Christian baseball player bemoaned another woe of this especially weather-plagued season: soggy cleats.
“One of my players just put his shoes on and said, ‘I’m so tired of putting on wet shoes,’” said Eagles coach Darin Phelps.
But damp tootsies are the least of area baseball players and coaches’ worries. A historically wet winter that included the area’s worst flooding in nearly a quarter century has made fields too soggy to hold practice, made scheduling and rescheduling contests a bit of a nightmare, and managing players, pitch counts and lineups, a true challenge for some programs.
“We have been able to get nine games in when other teams are at five or six,” Petaluma coach Jim Selvitella said. The Trojans are 7-3 and 4-1 in the Vine Valley Athletic League.
But they, too, have been chased inside lately.
And the piece that Selvitella said can’t be replicated is baserunning. The timing, the spacing, the fielders’ positions – athletes need to be on the field to get it down.
“It’s all about being on the bases,” he said. “You can only do that on the field. There is nothing in the classroom you can do to work on that.”
But simply getting games in may be the biggest problem at this wet stage of early April. And as teams scramble to reschedule games affected by the recent rains, coaches are having to play more chess with their players – especially their pitchers – to follow pitch count and appearance regulations even as games are often being slotted into back-to-back spots on the calendar.
How are they managing?
“That’s a great question when I have a limited pitching staff,” Phelps said.
CIF rules allow pitchers to throw up to 30 pitchers without requiring a full day of rest between outings. When back-to-back games are scheduled, this becomes key. Phelps said he will likely spread his duties out between a handful of players and watch their pitch count like a hawk to keep them eligible for the next game.
“It’s ‘You’ve got an inning, you’ve got an inning, you each get an inning,’” Phelps said. “It’s hard to get into a tempo or rhythm but I have to do it.”
The Eagles were supposed to host North Central League II foe St. Vincents on Friday, but according to Phelps, RVC’s home plate is “a lake.”
So the game was moved to Saturday at St. Vincent. Which also meant that the Mustangs, who are 7-2 overall and 3-0 in the NCLII, had to cancel an out-of-league key matchup with perennial power St. Patrick-St. Vincent out of Vallejo. So even when teams have good field conditions at home, their schedule is still getting re-arranged.
“League takes priority over non-league,” St. Vincent coach Stan Switala said.
All the makeups will put the Mustangs on the field playing games on Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, a double-header next Saturday and a game on Monday. Luckily, Switala said he’s deep and has pitchers who can cover that kind of schedule.
“I have a little more leeway because I have eight pitchers I can throw,” he said.