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PREP NOTEBOOK: MWL has it all riding on weekends

While it certainly is one thing to not play weekday games because of foul weather — and that seems increasingly likely given current rainy trends — it’s quite another when there really aren’t any on the schedule to begin with.

That’s the situation that Midwestern League baseball and softball teams have been adjusting to this spring after finding themselves in a bind due to the league expanding to nine teams in each sport.

Instead of playing the league’s typical schedule of a single game on Tuesdays and doubleheaders on Saturdays to cap a three-game series, this year’s breakdown only calls for counting doubleheaders on Saturdays and an option for teams to play non-counting games against league foes during the week.

Ashland and Eagle Point have agreed to a weekday meeting in baseball Tuesday, weather permitting, but Crater’s baseball team will not be playing such contests with its 5A foes, and none of the local softball programs are either.

“If we did three games versus everybody that would be 24 league games and that’s a lot,” said Crater baseball coach Jay Campbell. “That would leave you just two nonleague games to play so no one could go anywhere for spring break or anything, so that’s not going to work.”

The Comets host their own tournament during spring break and will be using a trip to next week’s Easter Baseball Classic in Fresno, California, to account for their only true out of area excursion this season.

Ashland and Eagle Point only have a couple weekday nonleague games remaining on the schedule in baseball, and the same goes on the softball slate, where fill-in games are difficult to come by in this region.

“The difficult thing is now the (Class 6A) Southwest Conference is on a three-game schedule,” said Eagle Point softball coach John White, “and so now if we are trying to find nonleague games against quality opponents, we can’t find games. If we get rained out with somebody and we can’t get it rescheduled, we can’t find somebody to replace them. Up north because of proximity of teams in the Eugene and Portland area they can probably pick up games, but we have a really difficult time.”

Having such long breaks in between games has been less than ideal, according to both coaches.

“It’s not ideal just because you’re going a week without seeing live pitching and then having kids play live Saturdays is tough,” said Campbell. “We’re going to have to be creative with our practice plan and create some game-type situations to make sure that we’re staying sharp.”

White agreed, although he did note that there was some benefit to only playing one doubleheader per week.

“As far as the development of our JV teams and those sort of things,” said White, “we can spend a little more time with them along with the varsity and do more drills and that sort of thing that we probably haven’t done enough of in the past. The long-term benefits to the program are probably OK, but it’s still a long time in between games for sure.”

Since there is an inherent advantage in baseball and softball to being the home team — being able to have the final at-bat — there was talk of having teams swap visitor and home designations for one game during this season’s doubleheaders, but that apparently went nowhere after league-wide confusion on the plan.

To date, Crater’s softball league opener March 16 against North Bend is the only twin bill in which one of Southern Oregon’s home teams made the switch and played as the visitor for one game in the doubleheader. It was a pregame discussion on the baseball side that same day for Crater and North Bend but no change was made, and it hasn’t come up again.

“I’m assuming that we did it right or else I would’ve heard something,” said Campbell.

At any rate, there would be no need to make that change now since it would break the continuity of what has already transpired. And, as such, Campbell said he’s fine with it all balancing out in the end.

“It would be weird to go to North Bend and we’re the home team for one game,” said Campbell. “It just doesn’t make sense, and I think it would just be a mess. I think it’s just easier to keep it basic and then our score isn’t under Bulldogs or whatever on the scoreboard and there’s all that confusion. It balances out with the next year’s games and who is home and who is visitor.”

Still, it’s not like alternating visitor and home designations wouldn’t create for better equity in league matchups, and there’s no doubt the Comets may have used that to their advantage this past Saturday at Churchill when, in Game 2, they scored the game’s first run in the top of the seventh inning but then saw the Lancers rally with two runs for a walk-off 2-1 win to complete a sweep.

“You can definitely make a case for it,” Campbell said with a laugh of alternating roles. “Or we could just not give up two runs in the bottom of the seventh and we would’ve still won.”

It’s that same relaxed nature that has Campbell not too worried about any of the MWL schedule changes this year or thereafter. After all, it’s not like the forecast has made for too many available playing days this spring as it is.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be a field playable for at least a week, not around our facilities anyway,” said Campbell of the consistent rain. “It’s bad.”

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry