Connor Richardson was off to a solid start for the Capital University baseball team this spring before collegiate athletics came to an abrupt end across the country.
Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA was forced to cancel the remaining postseason events for winter sports and later the spring sports season.
With the cancellation of spring sports, the NCAA approved a waiver to allow spring athletes to receive another year of eligibility. However, some of those athletes may not receive scholarship aid because of athletic department budget shortfalls, forcing them to weigh the financial costs of an added year of college.
Richardson, a 2016 Reynoldsburg graduate, attended Division II Tiffin for one year before transferring to Division III Capital. Through 13 games this spring -- in what was supposed to be his senior season -- he was batting .296 with 12 runs, three doubles, one triple, two home runs and 15 RBI.
"I just don't feel like my career is over with, especially since this season I was on record pace for breaking all my personal-best numbers," Richardson said. "I was off to a hot start, so that's why I want to come back."
As a junior, Richardson hit .310 with six doubles, three homers and 25 RBI in 35 games. He has 19 credit hours remaining and expects to graduate next spring with a bachelor's degree in marketing.
"He came out right away (to accept the waiver)," Capital coach Ryan Grice said. "As soon as that information came out, he texted me that day. ... If he comes back, that's great. He's a pull hitter. He's a presence in the middle of the lineup."
Richardson has battled injuries, including undergoing sports hernia surgery last October after suffering the injury early last season. He also suffered a right arm injury during his sophomore year.
"He only had a very limited time to get back in playing shape before this year and he got off to a great start," Grice said. "He was playing very well. He was playing in the outfield, (and) I had him playing at third base. He's a kid who likes to play. He even wants to catch next year."
Colton Bauer, a junior infielder at Ohio State, plans on accepting the waiver. Through 14 games this spring, he was batting .294 and had seven starts at second base.
"I'm definitely going to take it," he said. "It was a really easy decision. I didn't even have to second-guess myself. I think most of my teammates will take advantage of this."
Bauer, a 2017 graduate of Grove City, was a walk-on at Ohio State.
Dan Rutan, who also is a 2017 Grove City graduate, is considering whether to accept the waiver. He is a junior pitcher at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.
"It's a case-by-case thing," Rutan said. "We have to meet with the coaching staff and see what our options are. With me, I have to look at my family situation. As long as it doesn't put them in a financial bind and I see what I want to do with my career, as long as the extra year doesn't jeopardize that. Right now, the plan is to take that extra year."
Rutan had appeared in four games this spring, including one start, and was 0-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 9 2/3 innings. He was batting .317 with five doubles and 11 runs.
"I like being home and I like being around my family, but right now I would obviously be in the thick of our season," he said. "We would be in conference play, so not being able to play after all the work we put in definitely sucks.
"It's frustrating not being able to go out and do anything. I'm staying busy around the house and being optimistic that hopefully this thing gets under control sooner rather than later. We have to get back to some sort of normalcy as soon as we can."
Kat Walton, a 2016 Pickerington Central graduate who plays women's lacrosse at Capital, is graduating this month with a degree in business management. She is considering the waiver, but also has to focus on her future after graduation.
Walton said the Ohio Athletic Conference has filed an appeal with the NCAA, hoping to lower the required credit hours for graduated students who accept the waiver.
"I'm waiting on making my decision until there's a little bit more information regarding credit hours," she said. "I don't think I would do it if I have to go (to school) full time."
As a junior, Walton was named first-team All-Great Lakes Region and all-OAC. As a sophomore, she was first-team all-OAC and second-team all-region.
Walton had 27 goals and two assists in six games this spring, giving her 171 goals and 50 assists for her career. She had right ACL and MCL surgery her freshman year, but opted not to use a redshirt season after appearing in just six games.
"Obviously, every senior is hurting, but I missed pretty much my whole freshman year from an injury, so I only had two full seasons and six games my freshman year and six games my senior year," Walton said. "I definitely felt like I was cut short from my experience."
Christian Vermillion, a 2015 graduate of Hilliard Darby and distance runner in track and field at Capital, said he will take advantage of the waiver. He has three credit hours remaining to earn his degree in computer science.
"This is perfect timing," he said. "This season didn't pan out because of obviously everything that is going on. Next season is just another opportunity to improve from what I've already done. ... The fact that the NCAA is giving everyone this season back is awesome."