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Athletes prefer busier schedule

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

To have a fresh mind, or fresh legs?

That's the question as every high school spring sport enters its postseason within the next week or so, and it's usually out of anyone's control.

It's been one of those springs -- you know, one where it's 45 degrees with a wind chill of 35 one day, two days after and two days before it's 80. As such, the schedules that coaches and athletics directors drew up months ago look more like a child's doodles, what with multiple postponements, cancellations and makeup games of makeup games.

Supposed to play two league games and a Saturday doubleheader the final week of the regular season? Let's make that five league games and, if that doubleheader opponent doesn't have a makeup of its own, two more just two or three days before the postseason begins.

One school of thought is a team wants to be well-rested and focused entering the most important time of the year.

The other school of thought is the kids would rather be playing than practicing or sitting around waiting for the postseason to begin.

A random sampling of central Ohio coaches and players shows the heavy workload often is preferred.

"It's fun to play every day," Pickerington North senior second baseman Jordan Grubb said in late April on the heels of two baseball games against rival Pickerington Central having been postponed in the span of three days because of rain and cold. "You get in the groove of things, especially if you're playing well."

Grove City baseball coach Ryan Alexander has seen the schedule work both ways. Two years ago, when his team advanced to the first of consecutive Division I state tournaments and lost to Liberty Township Lakota East 7-2 in a semifinal, the Greyhounds lost a game right before the start of the postseason.

Last year, when Grove City made another deep run and lost to eventual champion Cincinnati Moeller 3-2 in a state semifinal, the Greyhounds won 12 consecutive games near the end of the regular season. That season, the weather led to few postponements and the Greyhounds had enough of a cushion in the OCC-Ohio Division that they didn't have to complete three suspended regular-season games.

"Our guys know that come late in the season, we will have had some rainouts. Usually, there's going to be a logjam," Alexander said. "You know you'll be overloaded toward the end, but our guys are always up to the task. They want to play great teams. It's where we want to keep peaking toward the end of the season."

Logically, the best way to do that is to be playing regularly.

The Upper Arlington girls lacrosse team spent much of the season's first month trying to get anything going. The Golden Bears' opener against Watterson on March 23 was postponed because it would have conflicted with Watterson's boys basketball team playing in (and winning) the Division II state championship game. After a trip to the Dogwood Classic in Atlanta the first weekend of April, UA played three games in 19 days.

Beginning May 1, the Bears had four games in seven days to begin a stretch they hope will culminate in a fifth consecutive Division I state final appearance. UA has lost the previous four state finals.

"We were all getting so anxious to play," senior midfielder Nicole Stines said, adding she prefers more games late in the regular season partly because late wins can lead to a better tournament seed. "I feel like it definitely affects your ranking. Maybe from these games this week, we can be seeded as high as possible and go into the tournament as high as we can."

It's not like things will necessarily get smoother from here, however.

In 2001, the softball district finals were played on a Sunday afternoon after rain washed out a few days of action the previous week, and all four fields at the original Pickerington High School's complex were packed nonetheless.

In 2003, it was 63 degrees and raining on the last day of May when many sports had regional finals.

In 2006, prolonged rain meant the Division IV baseball state final was played on a Sunday night, a day later than scheduled. The Division II final didn't take place until the next Tuesday, three days late.

By then, teams just hope they're still waiting around to play.

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