March surely took its time to saunter in. After over 45 inches of snowfall this year, the Millersville community has seen more white than green on the campus’ athletic fields over the past several weeks; however, with temperatures recently sprouting to the 50s, fortunately, the lion of March has finally come to save the day.
Unfortunately, he brought his Slip ‘N Slide.
Because of the snow melting on Chryst Field at Biemesderfer Stadium and Bennett J. Cooper Park, the conditions have gone from a frozen, snowy tundra to a mushy, deluged swamp. In response to this, the university postponed the home openers for both softball and lacrosse—softball being a doubleheader this past Tuesday and lacrosse being this past Saturday—as well as baseball’s doubleheader, which was also slated for Saturday.
“This winter has been extraordinary,” Ethan Hulsey, Director of Athletic Communications, said. “This issue has affected every school in the region.”
Softball’s reschedule date for the doubleheader has not been set yet. Starting off the season 2-2, the Lady Marauders took a two-week unintentional hiatus because of the unfavorable field conditions. Not only was their home-opener postponed, but four more games were cancelled from Friday and Saturday’s doubleheaders at Concord and Bluefield State.
Speaking about the extra pressure put on the teams—and the university, itself—because of the convoluted schedule, Hulsey said, “This is a great burden on the coaches who have to find additional games and a great burden on the administrative support staff who have to reschedule buses, find hotels and plan meals.”
For the lacrosse team, the poor field conditions were a roadblock in front of their path to a hopeful playoff run. Last year, they missed out on the conference tournament by one spot, despite having their finest season in half-a-decade.
In 2013, they went 9-7 overall—their first winning season in five years, mind you—4-7 within the PSAC, and their 221 goals were the most ever recorded for Millersville. They look to continue their surging success on the field behind three-year coach Mia Hall with the return of their top four scorers, plus 10 of their top 11.
Off the field, their swift aid to the family of Kristina Quigley, the coach of Seton Hill until a devastating bus crash while heading to Millersville ended her life, helped the Marauders to bring home their own trophy, the 2012-13 PSAC Sportsmanship Award.
After being placed seventh in the PSAC preseason poll, the Lady Marauders initiated their optimistic 2014 season last Wednesday against Holy Family with a 17-12 victory. The rescheduled home-opener against Alderson-Broaddus was set for Tuesday at 4 p.m. on the—hopefully dry—turf of Biemesderfer Stadium.
“Flexible and creative” are the words Hulsey described what coaches need to be when winter weather strikes like it has this year, and baseball coach John Shehan has been all-too-familiar with trying to assimilate to the conditions this season.
“We will take a day off on Sunday and get back on the horse on Monday, preparing for the first pitch at home on Thursday,” Shehan explained. “The off weekend has also given us a chance to get an extra lift in this week, while allowing some needed rest for a few players who are banged up.”
Also, Shehan said, the postponed games will most likely take up empty dates in April, but the details still need to be sanded out.
The Marauders (7-5) have had a back-and-forth season thus far in 2014, somewhat falling short of expectations which were based off their superb results from a year ago. After their 40-18 record, PSAC East championship and No. 1 seed in the NCAA Atlantic Regional, Millersville was placed No. 29 in the national polls at the start of the season.
Without studs like pitcher Tim Mayza, who was drafted by the Blue Jays last June, the Marauders have struggled to keep a streak going; notwithstanding, there have been blips of success on the radar, including a three-game winning streak where they outscored their opponents 20-3, capping it all off with a 10-0 romping of No. 7-ranked Franklin Pierce on the first of March.
Shehan has veteran hitters like the 2013 PSAC East Player of the Year, Zach Stone, but even more so, pitchers like 2013 Atlantic Region Pitcher of the Year Chris Murphy to thank for that success.
The star has thrown 16 consecutive scoreless innings, while dismantling batters with his 18 strikeouts and only giving up five hits during that span. Thanks in part to his three-hit shutout of Franklin-Pierce, one of the best teams in the country, he was awarded with the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division II National Pitcher of the Week last Wednesday.
Murphy sits today with a 15-3 career record and 2.09 overall ERA.
“We have a lot of depth on the mound,” Shehan said. “We were built for tournament play.”
With the daunting amounts of snowfall this season, however, there’s always that chance of wintry weather impacting the Marauders’ streaky play—but Shehan won’t make any excuses.
“Obviously, we want to play every weekend, at minimum, to keep our arms in a consistent routine and our hitters seeing pitching,” Shehan said about the brief hiccup in the schedule caused by the melting snow; “but I don’t think an off weekend will affect the outcome of our season or even the outcome of the next game … we will be prepared.”
The players may be ready, but nothing matters if there isn’t an adequate field to play on.
“[Equipment manager] Ike Hogue has done a great job working on snow removal for our team,” Shehan began. “We have had the tarp off of our infield for about two weeks now, which has allowed for extra drying while the outfield has thawed. We also use the field tarp in the outfield to speed up the melting process and it has worked as well.”
Shehan added: “The Coop is coming along nicely. We have seen some major improvements in the playing surface in the last two or three days. I anticipate playing at home against Clarion on Thursday.”
As for the turf Chryst Field, things are looking up as well.
“Now it is just a matter of allowing the sun to dry the surfaces,” Hulsey said, adding, “Obviously, the turf at Biemesderfer Stadium will be playable sooner than the softball and baseball fields.”
Whether the fields are ready to go on Thursday or not—a last-ditched effort by Jack Frost may claim the field’s green color once again with a rain-snow mix possible on Thursday—there’s no denying that when all the snow is finally done melting, this’ll surely be a winter to remember.
“We can’t control the weather and neither can the university staff,” Shehan acknowledged. “It’s been a tough winter and they have done the best they can for our athletes. We appreciate it.”