Unexpected weather conditions have caused delays in some of SRU’s spring athletics teams’ season, but Rock director of athletics Paul Lueken credits good facilities and better communication for getting so many busy schedules immediately back on track.
“The weather hurt us a little bit, but we will be back on schedule this weekend,” Lueken said. “Other than that, it’s a typical spring. I say we are in as good of shape this year as we have been in a while in terms of makeup games.”
Lueken said the teams that were affected the most were baseball and softball. The teams lost their opportunities to play games on the originally scheduled days. The baseball team will remove the Mansfield University game from its schedule, with the potential of adding one more game at the end of the year, while the softball team has doubleheaders every day from Wed., April 13 to Sunday, April 17. Most of the games being made up or canceled were away.
Lueken said the reason that Slippery Rock home games were able to stay on schedule was because of the quality of the facilities and accessibility to others.
“We are only behind one home game because our field is better than most of the other ones,” Lueken said.
The baseball team made up its games by traveling twice to Washington, Pa. to play against California University (Pa.) at Consol Energy Park. Lueken said the field is turf and made it more available than Slippery Rock’s grass field. He is hoping that he can make the upgrade to turf at Jack Critchfield Park in the future.
“We do have a drainage issue in the outfield with softball and baseball,” Lueken said. “The infields are great and ready to go the next day. We need to look at the outfield and see how we can improve drainage. We’d like to have turf in the outfield, but it’s pretty expensive. We are looking at it.”
Rock head baseball coach Jeff Messer said that the drainage issue has limited his team’s time practicing on their home field. The snow and rain have made it almost impossible to play any games at Critchfield.
“We are supposed to play here tomorrow,” Messer said. “Unless Gannon forces our hand, I don’t see us playing.”
The lack of opportunities to practice or play on their field isn’t the main reason for the team’s lack of success this season, Messer said, but it does contribute. He hopes for an upgrade to the field in the future so that the team can have some of the same opportunities as other teams in the west.
“It definitely would have been an advantage to play more intersquad games early in the year,” Messer said. “You have schools like Gannon in Erie playing in worse conditions then we are, but they are playing in early February because it’s turf. Even Seton Hill and California have turf, so they can get on it.”
Regardless of field situations, the coaches were still making sure games happened. Lueken said the dedication of the coaches to make sure that their teams were playing those games really kept the season on schedule.
Lueken did not just say this about baseball and softball, but the dedication of other programs in Rock athletics as well.
“Track and field, they go in it,” Lueken said. “If it’s cold, wet and raining, they’re running. This weekend they didn’t go to IUP due to the snow, which was probably a good thing.”
Lueken said he does not see any of The Rock’s programs coaches or teams being any less dedicated, as it is SRU’s reputation. Problems that other teams may have getting to games, Slippery Rock does not, Lueken said, and he plans to keep it that way.
“We’ve never missed getting to a makeup game because of bus transportation,” Lueken said. “Some schools have had issues with that because of short notice, but we are fortunate there.”