Weather throws a wrench in GVSU spring sports

Laker teams have games canceled, postponed due to harsh conditions

By Beau Troutman | 4/6/16 11:03pm

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #5 Kendra Stuaffer

It’s the time of year when students wait in hopeful anticipation for a surprise snow day, and winter coughs up a few last-minute snow storms as the calendar turns from March to April.

The almost-predictable unpredictability of Michigan weather this time of year has affected a handful of games for Grand Valley State baseball, softball and lacrosse. Several games have been canceled, and Laker lacrosse has had to move a few of its games around to accommodate for the inclement weather.

At a university nestled in West Michigan, the teams are prepared for this sort of thing.

“We’re a northern baseball team,” said head baseball coach Jamie Detillion. “I hate to say that we’re used to it, but it’s not out of the ordinary to deal with colder, messier conditions this time of year especially.”

When facing an unfavorable forecast, the coaching staff and administration of the home team typically contact the coaches of the visiting team to figure out a solution. The coaches try to avoid cancellation and look to postpone the game first.

The coaches take into account several factors before deciding on cancellation or postponement: umpire and referee availability, where the visiting team is traveling from and bus availability are some of the most important factors.

All the decisions and factors that go into a cancellation get chaotic, and effective communication early on is needed to coordinate a cancellation or postponement.

“Hopefully you have some pretty decent relationships with the coaches in your conference, and you’re able to have that candid conversation about what’s going to happen,” said head lacrosse coach Alicia Groveston.

When games against conference opponents in your division—in GVSU’s case, the GLIAC North—the conference rules require a date to be selected for a makeup game, unless there’s absolutely no opening in the schedule for the two teams to meet.

Non-conference games, on the other hand, are typically not made up.

All the coaches said the decision on a cancellation is made with the student-athletes’ best interests at heart. Although, the coaches admit it can be tough on the players, who are juggling classes and a busy athletic schedule.

Getting up for a game only to find out it’s been canceled can challenge the players mentally, but the coaches say they just have to roll with the punches.

“It’s hard from a mental standpoint, because here you are, you’re gearing up for a game on Sunday, and then all of a sudden you get the text that you’re not playing now,” Callihan said. “There’s a lot of emotional fluctuation from that standpoint.”

Detillion says if there’s ever any chance of the weather causing injuries or other serious issues, a cancellation is always the choice over trying to tough it out. Just this past weekend (April 2-3), two Laker baseball games of a four-game series against Ashland were canceled.

The two games that were played weren’t exactly in baseball weather, either.

“There was wind gusts over 50 miles-an-hour,” Detillion said. “With winds that high, it’s already a colder temperature down there, high 30s low 40s, that makes it pretty tough conditions to play baseball in. You got the wind blowing in your face, eyes are watering and trying to battle some other elements.”

The lacrosse team is prepared to fight the conditions, and typically can battle through snow storms and the like. The team hasn’t had any cancellations, though a couple of games have been postponed.

Groveston, however, cites an April 3 game between Division I No. 4-ranked Syracuse and unranked Canisius University as one of those rare occurrences that teams have to be prepared for.

The snow was coming down so hard that the two teams couldn’t see the lines on the field, and the game was called with under six minutes left in the game, with the score tied 10-10. If 80 percent of a game is played when the game is called, it must be finished on a later date.

Had the game been called just a few minutes earlier, when Syracuse had the lead, it would’ve given the Orange the win. Now, both of the teams have to hold their breath while the coaches determine a time to continue the game.

So far things have worked out OK for the spring sports teams, aside from the few cancellations. Though the weather should start clearing up as May draws nearer and nearer, all of the coaches know nothing is a guarantee.

“There’s no promise and no reliability that Mother Nature is going to be cooperative with us,” Groveston said.

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