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H.S. Sports: Franklin County spring coaches trying to remain optimistic

  • Frontier coach Chris Williams talks to pitcher Ben Arnold (3) and catcher Garrett DeForest (2) during the 2018 Western Mass. Division 3 championship game against Taconic. Williams and the Red Hawks hope they will have a chance at a title this spring, despite a delayed start. STAFF FILE PHOTO/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 3/17/2020 6:17:52 PM

The uncertainty of spring has high school coaches wondering what’s in store for the upcoming months.

The MIAA delayed the start of the spring sports season for a second time on Monday, and the most up-to-minute starting date for teams throughout the area is April 27. The situation remains fluid however, and the MIAA acknowledged that dates could continue to change as more is learned about the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced the closure of area schools and businesses.

On the home front, the holding pattern has left teams, coaches and players feeling uncertain about what’s ahead.

Greenfield High School softball coach Rian Lovett said she was ready to go with practices this week. The program has a brand-new batting cage that it was excited to put to use, and Lovett said the nice weather over the past month had her anticipating being outside from the very beginning of preseason, had things gone according to plan.

“I was ready to go,” began Lovett. “The not knowing has been the hardest part. It’s really a day-to-day thing at this point. I’m constantly paying attention to Twitter, seeing what the MIAA is posting. It’s tough for everyone right now.”

Greenfield graduated some key seniors from last year’s team, including ace pitcher Olivia Joy. Lovett said that she was excited for the program to restock this spring, and see what a crop of new players was capable of doing.

“This was a really big year for me,” Lovett admitted. “It’s a building year and I’m excited to get this group in. It’s a whole different philosophy and way of coaching this year. These girls have worked a ton in the offseason, played travel ball. This group really has a passion and drive for softball. So to not have us starting on time, to have us keep moving everything back, it’s devastating.”

Greenfield is an example of a program that was looking at the start of the spring season as a chance to lay the foundation for a bright future.

The Frontier Regional School baseball team is an example of a program that was locked and ready to go from the beginning. Following two consecutive trips to UMass and the sectional finals (2018) and semifinals (2019), the Red Hawks had 2020 circled on the calendar as the year they broke through and won the Western Mass. Division 3 title. With a senior-laden roster and talent everywhere, skipper Chris Williams hopes they’ll still have that chance.

“Obviously, this is an unprecedented situation,” Williams explained. “Public health is what we’re focused on right now and that’s the priority, but at the same time, me and the guys are all optimistic. I think (the April 27 date), that’s as good a chance as any to get the opportunity to play this year.”

Williams loaded up his independent schedule this year, putting games against Taconic, Amherst and Archbishop Williams of Braintree on the slate to test his club before the postseason.

 “We have a ton of senior leadership this year, guys who have played at the varsity level for four years,” began Williams, who referred to the likes of Bryan Baumann, Garrett DeForest, Dylan Apanell and Connor Waitkus. “We have very high hopes for the season. Hopefully we’ll have a shot to be able to make a run at a title.”

Williams said players have been reaching out to him throughout the past week or two about the starting date, and he’s told them to remain positive despite the past few setbacks.

“That’s what I keep telling the players and their families, just stay motivated,” he said. “Keep all of our goals in mind. The end goal has not changed for the time being. That’s to still be playing baseball in June.”

The Frontier coach did acknowledge the disappointment his players — and high school athletes throughout the region and country — are feeling as the calendar slowly creeps toward April.

“The spring of senior year is as special a time as there is in their lives,” Williams said. “So I’m hopeful there will be some games at the end of this. We have to remain hopeful. I just feel so badly for the players and students in general. This must be a devastating experience for all of them.”

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