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Chris Murphy and Tom Mix , Published April 09 2013

With cold temps in the forecast, spring teams wonder when they will take the field

Fargo - One look at the 10-day forecast for the Red River Valley is enough to make metro high school coaches, players and fans cringe.

The cool temperatures the region has experienced the last two weeks appear to be sticking around, and that spells disaster for athletes hoping to compete outside gym walls.

Spring sports like baseball, softball and soccer were scheduled to hold games last week but may have to wait another two weeks. Marked calendars have become marked even more with postponements and cancellations.

In Fargo, baseball, softball and girls soccer teams are targeting the week of April 29 as the potential start of playing games.

“It’s been quite an interesting spring so far,” Fargo Shanley-Oak Grove-Park Christian baseball coach Joel Swanson said. “I don’t see anybody playing until the week of April 29 right now. There are so many question marks.”

Swanson keeps the East Region’s master baseball schedule, which before long could be getting a major overhaul.

“We might have to scrap the entire season and play every team twice and make both games count,” Swanson said. “If we get into May and we haven’t played a conference game yet, it is going to be an 18-game season and head right into the East Region tournament.”

Moorhead baseball coach Greg Salvevold hasn’t seen weather like this in his previous seven years of coaching the Spuds. He may have to wait a couple weeks to officially begin.

“It’s been a crazy spring,” Salvevold said. “Right now, it’s going to be probably two or three weeks before we can play here. The river levels haven’t been going up too much. There’s a lot of frost on the ground, so once it does warm up, that frost is going to come from the ground and our field will be soggy.”

The 10-day forecast for Fargo-Moorhead shows no high temperature above the low-40s.

“In a normal spring, you can usually see the weather improving a week ahead, but right now there is no daylight at the end of the tunnel,” West Fargo activities director Curt Jones said.

While non-artificial fields in F-M continue to thaw, teams are getting creative with their schedules.

The first games Swanson’s Deacons play this spring will be at the Battle of Dakotas tournaments in Sioux Falls on April 19-20.

Salvevold has already assembled backup plans for Moorhead even though it’s still early.

“We may have to change a home game to an away game just to get some games in,” Salvevold said. “We may have to look for a Metrodome game or might be calling (Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls) and try to pick up some games there because it’s dryer. It’s just a frustrating thing to look at the schedule and trying to get these guys games, especially the seniors. I’ve never seen this consistently cold weather and nothing melting.”

West Fargo’s softball team was scheduled to play in a St. Paul tournament this weekend. But this week’s snowstorm forced officials to cancel that event.

The shortened season may also mean some teams playing home games at fields other than their own.

Fargo Shanley’s Sid Cichy Stadium has an artificial surface, which is now clear and able to host practices and soccer matches. If grass fields remain unplayable past late April, Sid Cichy might host more games.

“That has been discussed,” Jones said. “There are some opportunities to practice over there as well. That is another option (Shanley activities director) Randy Nelson has opened up to us.”

Officials from the Minnesota State High School League and North Dakota High School Activities Association aren’t ready to panic.

“I want to say four years ago there was snow late in the year and it was the first week of May and Grand Rapids had played one or two baseball games and they still got most, if not the entire, season in,” said MSHSL associate director Kevin Merkle, who serves as the director of the baseball season in Minnesota. “The good news is you can play baseball and softball every day if you have to. At least it isn’t hockey or football.”

Merkle has strayed away from backup plans and instead wanted to remind coaches of the options they have.

“The state tournament isn’t until June 13 and 14,” Merkle said. “We don’t have to have section champions until June 8. You can compete in a regular-season scheduled event after the section tournament and you can play until the last day before the state tournament. It’s been done. Teams have section tournaments that start May 20 and they sneak in a game May 23. If you don’t get 20 games in, you don’t get them in, but you want the kids to play a game if it’s at all possible.”

The NDHSAA Board of Directors approved lifting several competition restrictions this spring, allowing teams to get more games in.

“We are not in panic mode yet,” NDHSAA assistant to the executive secretary Matt Fetsch said. “Our board has done all we can do by waiving the weekly restrictions for competition.”

Fetsch was in Fargo last week to speak at the North Dakota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association spring meetings and said the massive alterations to schedules this spring was talked about.

“They realize it is out of everyone’s hands,” Fetsch said. “I did mention to them the next two weeks are going to be the most trying two weeks of the year.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562