The spring sports at South Dakota State have been in action for more than two months, but they have been unable to practice outside due to weather.
The SDSU softball and baseball teams were supposed to have their home opener April 3 and April 7, respectively. The softball game was postponed until May, and the baseball team moved their game to Joplin, Missouri.
The teams have had to practice inside the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex (SJAC). Head baseball coach Rob Bishop said the teams were outside practicing in mid March last year and Mark Ekeland, who was the head coach at SDSU from 1984-2003, told him the latest they were able to practice outside was April 18.
Both Bishop and head softball coach Krista Wood said the teams are very fortunate to have an indoor facility like the SJAC.
Wood said not many teams in the Midwest have a facility like the SJAC and are not always able to practice when the weather is bad.
Bishop said it is nice to be able to practice when the weather is bad, but there are down falls to practicing inside.
“It isn’t the same playing baseball inside,” Bishop said. “Playing in a dome, it’s different than outside because the ball looks different and bounces different. We practice on turf every single day…for the outfielders, we can’t hit any live fly balls, so they have to do their best to use pregame to get a feel for each ballpark.”
Wood also said practicing on turf has been challenging because they play most of their games on dirt and grass.
“Pitching off of dirt is way different than pitching off of the turf in the SJAC,” Wood said. “The thing is, it’s hard work on gap balls, and cuts and relays, and even high fly balls and blocking the sun.”
Each team has been on the road for nine straight weekends dating back to Feb. 9. This has been challenging for the players to fulfill other obligations.
“Keeping up with their school work and dealing with the normal stresses that a college student has — they have to do all of that and be gone all of the time. We got back at four in the morning this past weekend and then they had to get up and go to class the next day,” Bishop said.
Wood said her team struggles with being on the bus a lot, but playing at home allows the Jacks to give the SDSU campus and Brookings community a chance to see them play.
“We want to play at home and show everybody what we’ve been doing and what we’re all about,” she said.
Softball and baseball are not the only SDSU teams affected by cold weather. The track and field teams do not have an outdoor track because they would not be able to use it enough.
The track and field teams were supposed to be in Vermillion April 7 for the Dakota Duals against South Dakota, but it was moved to the SJAC because of weather.
Bishop said not being able practice outside and play at home has put his team at a disadvantage, but they cannot use that as an excuse.
“There’s no excuses, we just have to play and can’t worry too much about it. North Dakota State is in the same boat, who we play this weekend,” he said.
Both teams face NDSU in a three game series starting April 12. The series was scheduled to be played in Brookings, but will be moved to Sioux Falls because it is forecasted to snow in Brookings.
“Hopefully this never happens again,” Wood said