Constant postponements having impact on A-K Valley baseball, softball teams

Monday, April 9, 2018 | 9:57 PM

A season-opening trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., provided Deer Lakes the opportunity to play four baseball games in three days, valuable experience for early in the season.

This year, it also might provide valuable experience for late in the season.

Mother Nature continues to wreak havoc on the baseball and softball schedules for WPIAL teams, with snow and rain wiping out dozens of games again Monday. And with just over a month remaining before the playoffs begin, most teams are dealing with the difficulty of rescheduling multiple games, which could lead to some on-field impacts as the season continues.

“We're trying to find our sea legs as far as our play goes,” said Freeport baseball coach Ed Carr, whose team posted Section 1-4A victories over Greensburg Salem and Highlands last week. “We're in section play right now, yet I feel like our best baseball is way ahead of us. So we're trying to limit mistakes and everything. I think everybody's in the same mode for section play, trying to get these games in because you don't know what's going to happen.”

Carr said teams that opened the season down south can reap some benefits from those games. In the Alle-Kiski Valley, that includes the Deer Lakes, Plum and Valley baseball teams, all of whom played four games.

“We saw a lot of guys step up down there,” Deer Lakes senior Jake McCaskey said of the Myrtle Beach trip, where the Lancers went 3-1. “We were saying we're not going to play four games like this, but now we might actually do that. So we're very confident we can handle that.

For much of the rest of the spring, teams sought shelter in gymnasiums, indoor batting cages or — for the particularly hardy — on turf football or soccer fields.

The on-again, off-again schedule already is causing some impact. Despite its experience at the Cal Ripken Experience, Deer Lakes (4-2, 1-1) scored just one run in two games last week: a 1-0 win over Derry and 2-0 loss to Yough.

“We're not seeing live at-bats outside,” junior Greg Geis said. “Even here (at Deer Lakes' indoor batting cages), it's a little bit harder to see in here. So we're not getting pure live at-bats, so it can be a struggle at times.”

On the bright side, as McCaskey mentioned, the Deer Lakes pitching staff is going strong, which could benefit the Lancers later in the season.

Because of the PIAA's pitch-count rule — one calendar day of rest for pitchers who throw between 26 and 50 pitches in a game, two for those who throw between 51 and 75 and three for those who throw between 76 and 100, with a cutoff of 200 pitches in a week — baseball teams need depth to survive a busy schedule. No pitch-count rule exists in softball, allowing teams to rely on an ace over multiple games if necessary.

“I can't even imagine what baseball coaches are feeling right now,” Kiski Area softball coach Maggie Jones said. “It's really going to impact them with their No. 1 or No. 2 starter. When you think about softball tournament ball, most pitchers now in our conference, they all play on tournament teams, so they're pitching six games within three days. Those girls are able to endure that.”

Jones said Kiski Area has three pitchers she can rely on, and Deer Lakes baseball coach Josh Tysk also pointed to his depth as a reason to feel optimistic. The Lancers used seven pitches in their first six games, led by McCaskey (12 23 innings) and Geis (12).

“Having a lot of arms is going to benefit teams,” Tysk said. “Certain teams that don't have a lot of arms are going to struggle, especially if games get pushed back. I think we can compete, and hopefully we'll hit the ball a little bit better. Those things are going to play a big factor in how well we do.”

With some games rescheduled for Tuesday and another full section slate scheduled for Wednesday, coaches are hoping to settle into a routine.

“We're always in the mentality that we're playing, no matter what,” Geis said. “The weather's never on our side, and then it gets canceled and you just go back to practice or working on our stuff.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.


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