Spring sports teams playing catch up as rain, snow leave fields soggy, postpone games


Dry fields have been a rare sight so far this spring as postponements continue to shuffle schedules for area spring sports teams. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
April 2

Madison sophomore pitcher Katie Vannicola walked off the mound on Monday night after securing her team’s second win of the season in as many games with a shutout of Marshall.

One year ago the fifth-ranked Warhawks were 5-1 on the final day of March. But a combination of snowstorms and rain have left fields waterlogged, throwing spring sports teams around the area off schedule and creating an increasing backlog of games.

A major snowstorm in early March set spring practice schedules back, but heavy rain and additional snow over the weekend have forced some teams into grueling stretches more akin to the Major League Baseball calendar.

Madison (3-0), which has held just one practice on its field since Feb. 24, was scheduled to play five games in six days this week. Stone Bridge was set to play three games in as many days starting Tuesday night.

The Post Top 10 softball teams have played a combined 26 games, and No. 8 National Cathedral has yet to open its season.

First-year Madison Coach Jim Adkins has spent nearly two decades coaching softball in Northern Virginia and says he’s never seen such precipitation this early in the spring.

“Even when we had the major snowstorm four years ago it wasn’t as problematic because it came and went,” Adkins said. “The frequency of one snow storm after another has been putting our field out of commission for more than a week.”

But multiple pitching outings in a short stretch aren’t foreign to Madison starting duo of Vannicola and senior Elizabeth Fallas as both have done so on the travel ball circuit. Vannicola said she once played five games in a day with the Vienna Stars U-18 team as a 15-year-old. And the arm action that is involved in fast-pitch is a lot less taxing than baseball, making pitchers more readily available.

“I’m not really worried about my arm getting tired,” Vannicola said. “Usually my back gets tired but the trainers do a great job of stretching it so I’m not worried about fatigue.”

Langley’s baseball and softball teams played their home openers Tuesday, both wins, but the extended winter weather has left the school’s outfields with standing water. Coaches have become part-time groundskeepers during planning periods, raking fields in order to get their teams back outside.

“What has to be most frustrating is not practicing, after a while they start chomping at the bit to practice,” Langley Athletic Director Geoff Noto said. “They’ve been on the field four times to practice, it’s kind of like cabin fever because you want to do stuff but you’re stuck.”

DeMatha’s top-ranked baseball team has had five games rained out this season, and is scheduled to play five games this week, including a Sunday matinee with No. 6 Paul VI. In a game that requires more rest for pitchers than softball, the Stags have the luxury of 10 players who can pitch on a given night.

The Stags play 11 games in 12 days before heading to Boston for a tournament in which they play three games in two days. They also have to complete 23 games by the start of the WCAC playoffs May 3.

“You have to adjust on fly and coach while you have a string of games like this,” O’Connor said. “But it’s a great opportunity for other kids. In the summer you have to have deep roster just to manage different kids.

Madisonbaseball is scheduled to play four games in five days this week, forcing Coach Mark “Pudge” Gjormand to take a longer view instead of his normal routine of looking at games on a day-to-day basis.

“We’re definitely looking at pitch counts and scripting things out a bit more, because we can’t throw the same guys every day,” Gjormand said. “We’re going to throw seven guys here by the end of Saturday.”

Tuesday, sophomore Matt Favero was called upon to start as three Warhawks pitchers are nursing injuries. Favero was not expected to get his first start until after the team’s mid-April spring break trip to South Carolina, but the weather has forced Madison to adjust.

“You have to keep kids fresh and rest them, and as long as you monitor arms closely you can do that,” Gjormand said of an upcoming stretch that features 11 games in 15 days. “I’m more worried about mental fatigue than physical with high school kids.”

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