Optimistic baseball, softball schedulers in Maine could be challenged by Mother Nature

Mahaney Diamond at the University of Maine in Orono, was still mostly covered in snow on March 27. Northern Maine high schools are facing an uphill battle to get their baseball and softball facilities ready before the season opens in one week.
Mahaney Diamond at the University of Maine in Orono, was still mostly covered in snow on March 27. Northern Maine high schools are facing an uphill battle to get their baseball and softball facilities ready before the season opens in one week. Buy Photo
Posted April 09, 2014, at 2:48 p.m.
Last modified April 09, 2014, at 9:50 p.m.

Madawaska High School is supposed to host Upper St. John Valley neighbor Wisdom of Saint Agatha in season-opening varsity baseball and softball games on April 17, according to the Maine Principals’ Association master schedule.

And while Lynn Wetmore, the school’s athletic administrator, expects to see some competition that afternoon, it may not be what originally was planned.

“I think we’re going to be playing Wiffle ball in the gym,” she joked. “You can’t see the field. I can’t see out of my window right now, the snow is so high.”

The Madawaska playing fields are located on top of a hill that gets considerable wind, and while the last few days have diminished the snowpack, Wetmore said prospects are likely that the Owls won’t play any regular-season games at home until after next week’s school vacation.

“I can’t remember having this much snow this late in the season,” she said. “We might need [L.L.] Bean boots to play in the outfield for a while.”

The Madawaska-Wisdom games are three sets of baseball and softball matchups slated in Eastern Maine on the first day countable games may be played this spring.

The prospects at Hodgdon High School, which is scheduled to host Ashland next Thursday, also are unlikely.

“I think those games are going to have to be rescheduled,” said Andrea Nightingale, secretary to Hodgdon athletic administrator Wayne Quint. “The last few days the snow has dropped tremendously, but you can’t see the pitchers’ mound and there’s quite a bit of ice in the dugouts.”

Michelle Morse, athletic administrator at Narraguagus High School in Harrington, said she is cautiously optimistic that her school’s baseball and softball teams may be able to host Calais next Thursday.

“If we get the right weather, and it doesn’t rain a ton, I think we could sneak them in,” she said.

Morse said the Narraguagus fields are close to clear of snow, though two small ice patches remained near the baseball dugouts and some snow remained accumulated near the outfield fences on both fields.

Some of that snow and ice were melted by rain earlier this week that hit Down East Maine heavier than most inland areas.

The Narraguagus-Calais games are among a smattering of regular-season contests planned statewide for April 17-19 before the schedule picks up during the April school vacation week and then kicks into full gear the week beginning April 28.

Hodgdon has four sets of baseball and softball games against other Aroostook County opponents — home dates against Ashland and Washburn and road contests against Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook and Ashland — on tap to be played before May 1.

Given Mother Nature’s lingering winter presence, some or all of those contests may have to be rescheduled. That could make for a compacted regular season, given the last day for countable games is June 4.

“It’s going to take quite a while for that all to melt,” said Nightingale, “let alone allow time for the fields to dry.”

And while such conditions are the norm in much of northern and western Maine, spring farther Down East is presenting a more optimistic picture for the boys and girls of summer.

Teams at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor might already have been on the fields had it not rained Tuesday. Bunky Dow, the school’s student activities director, said he expected the Trojans to have access to its softball and baseball diamonds by Friday, with some scrimmages scheduled for next week.

“We’re usually out there about this time of year every year,” said Dow.

And all systems are go Saturday for the first of two high school baseball preseason playdays to be hosted by Oceanside High School at its varsity diamond in Thomaston, according to athletic administrator Jim Leonard.

“The baseball team was outside last week,” he said.

The first playday will feature Oceanside and neighboring Medomak Valley of Waldoboro squaring off against Brunswick and Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft, the latter whose field remains under a significant snowpack and whose team held its first outside practice Monday — in the school parking lot.

Each team will play two games lasting five innings or an hour and 15 minutes, whichever comes first.

The following Saturday, Oceanside and Camden Hills of Rockport will face Messalonskee of Oakland and Brewer.

Leonard said his school’s varsity softball field isn’t quite as ready for action after enduring rainfall early this week.

“It’s under water right now,” he said. “I’ve got to go out there later today, and I expect to see a bunch of Canadian geese.”

Leonard said the middle-school softball field in Thomaston is ready to go. That will enable the high school team not only to practice outside but to host a scheduled preseason scrimmage against Skowhegan next week.

The scrimmage was moved from Skowhegan due to unplayable conditions in that Somerset County shiretown.

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