Spring Sports

Michigan City’s Gabe Galvan tries to put a tag on a Valpo runner on a play at the plate in a game last season. Baseball players and other athletes are working out on their own in hopes of getting a chance to play at some point this spring.

Just a few days ago, New Prairie baseball found out it was No. 10 in the Indiana Class 3A preseason rankings.

However, that’s not the reason coach Mark Schellinger wants his players to compete in some capacity this year.

“It is important for us to play, but not because of the ranking,” Schellinger said. “The ranking is nice, but more so it is important because our guys have put in so much work and not being able to see the result of that work would be disheartening. These seniors and their families mean so much to us, to our program and personally to my family and me. Our group of seniors mean a great deal to us. If they miss out on their senior season, it will be extremely difficult for all of us.”

As for the Cougars’ track seasons, it’s more about maintaining a culture they’ve built in both cross country and long-distance running. Track in the spring and cross country in the fall go hand-in-hand in helping one another, so the cancellation of one could prove detrimental to the other.

“It’s very important to me that we continue the season in some capacity,” boys track coach David Dailey said. “At New Prairie, we live and breathe distance running. My crew runs six days a week all year essentially. They know that what they do this week has long-term implications for what they can do at the end of this season, in late October for cross country, and even next year for track and field. So it’s important to me that we sustain this culture and effort because it’s worked for us. We went to state this year in cross country (for the first time in 18 years) because we make this a priority.”

This week’s news that the Indiana High School Athletic Association hasn’t canceled all spring sports yet came as a bit of a shock – a positive one, at that. With the NCAA officially canceling all spring sports, it figured the high school ranks would follow suit, but they have more scheduling flexibility, so as of now, the Indiana prep seniors haven’t yet lost all hope of their final prep season resuming, even in limited form.

“I am very thankful that the IHSAA has not cancelled our seasons yet,” New Prairie girls track coach Julie Beakas said. “I trust that they are being responsible, as things are currently postponed, but I am so grateful that they haven’t just pulled the plug on the season yet. Coaching is such a huge passion of mine, so this is important to me, but I get to coach another season when this is over. My seniors may never get to compete again. Most student-athletes don’t continue their athletic careers after high school, so this season being cut short is already devastating for those kids. If the season is cancelled completely, I can’t imagine how they will feel.”

For one coach in the county, this softball season means even more to him than it would for most. Marquette coach Shaun McConnell’s daughter, senior Ally McConnell, will have just this season left in her high school athletics career. The basketball standout won a pair of state titles in the sport, but playing for her parents is something they don’t take lightly.

“For myself and my wife, we would cherish the opportunity to coach our daughter,” Shaun said. “Many people would love for that opportunity. We would have it if everything goes to normal May 7.”

While he hasn’t been in contact with any of his players since Marquette was shut down, he knows his daughter is still training, at the very least.

“I do see Ally every day, so rest assured she is working hard on tee work, fielding and agility drills in the garage,” Shaun said. “I know how intense the girls were the first week. I really feel and hope most are doing the same... I told the girls to try to do anything they can to stay active. The more they do, the better May will be for us. Swing your bat, pitch, and throw on nice days with your parents or siblings.”

For some sports in the area with smaller teams, seniors may not be their concern. Such is the case for Marquette boys golf, which has no seniors. Still, however, a delayed and possibly canceled season could hinder the golfers’ progression.

“Thankfully, I don’t have any seniors this year; so the show will go on,” coach Cody Ward said. “At this point, we need to be on the course as a team to get things going for this year. It’s pretty much day-by-day with this virus going around. I’ve informed all the kids to chip in their backyard pretty much until we are together.”

Ward’s biggest concern isn’t so much with his team keeping their swings and short games in tact. Instead, it’s the mental side of golf that he wants to make sure stays sharp. More than almost any sport, being strong-minded is vital to succeed in golf.

“We need to stay mentally sharp,” Ward said. “Routine is a very big thing in golf. They need to get in some type of routine and keep it that way. By that, I don’t care if they do their work all day, but they need to have a practice session every day. It’s very important while doing those practice sessions to have your routine. We just want to stay as sharp as possible.”

Email: jparodi@thenewsdispatch.com. Twitter: @jack_parodi

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