GV softball team cancels 13th game of season

Pete Barrows

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Every spring for 55 years, Major League Baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell would open each season reciting a stanza known as the “Song of the Turtle.”

“For, lo, the winter is past,” the poem begins. If only, for the sake of the Grand Valley State University softball team left patiently waiting inside, it held true.

In accordance to the lingering residual affects of one of the harshest Michigan winters in decades, the Lakers have already been forced to cancel 13 games this season and have not played a single inning of softball since returning home from a spring trip to Florida more than two weeks ago.

“We had seasons that have started with a tough couple of first two weeks, and eventually if we get going here, we’ll be alright, but it’s still so cold,” GVSU head coach Doug Woods said. “We’ve shoveled snow on our field three times now this season in hopes of getting out to play.

“Usually teams get blisters from taking batting practice. We get them from using shovels.”

There is a chance that a handful of the postponed games could be made up later in the season, although with Michigan weather in mind, there’s also a chance there could be more cancellations still to come.

Barring conditions, GVSU (11-4) will travel to Canton, Ohio, to return to the diamond at 1 p.m. Saturday with a doubleheader against Walsh University.

The Lakers are also scheduled to extend the road trip with a twinbill against Northwood University on Sunday, and if all goes according to plan, the season will resume as originally scheduled from there.

“This is my sixth year here, and this is the most difficult start to the spring season that I’ve seen,” GVSU Assistant Sports Information Director DJ Foster said. “The girls played indoors in late February, they played almost a dozen games down in Florida in early March and played well, but they haven’t played again since.

“There is going to be three weeks in between games – it feels like months ago – and they haven’t practiced outside at all. That’s not unique to them – a lot of the teams in the Midwest haven’t gotten outside, either – but it makes it tough to bounce back from long absences of play.”

In most seasons, the Lakers play in the range of 45 to 50 games in the regular season, although there have been years where there hasn’t been a single cancellation.

As it stands for now, GVSU will play in the range of 30 to 35 contests before entering postseason play, and it won’t play at home until a doubleheader against Wayne State University on April 11.

The shortened season aside, the Lakers continue to plug through daily practice sessions inside the Kelly Family Sports Center.

Aspirations of returning to the NCAA Division II World Series tournament in Woods’s final season, like the snow, have not fully melted away as the team waits for flowers to appear on the Earth, the singing of birds and the voice of the turtle to be heard, and for shovels to be replaced, once and for all, with bats.

“There’s nothing you can do about the weather, but you try to work through it the best that you can, and stay sharp by your practices – that’ll be especially important this season,” Woods said. “On offense, we’ve done a lot of hitting, and we’ve also gone off our live pitching in the cages to keep the pitchers working, too. The defensive end might be a little more of a struggle because you don’t get into game situations much, but we try to simulate all of it the best that we can, even if it’s not quite the same indoors.

“As for the schedule, this team is certainly going to appreciate home games more when we get them, but none of our objectives change; every game is still important. The more games you play, your skills should improve, and we’re not going to have that many games this year to work with, but to be successful, you always have to make every trip, every game, every throw and every swing you do get count. That’s our focus everyday.”