On Thursday, March 25, Gov. Tim Walz extended the closure of schools and distance learning mandate to May 4. The Minnesota State High School League immediately followed with an update that basically maintains status quo, meaning no practices, scrimmages, games or competition of any kind until then.
Where does that leave sports? Well, with the current section playoff dates, it would give each sport roughly two weeks of a regular season.
Of course, that would mean games on Day 1, May 4, and that’s incredibly unlikely, especially for baseball and softball needing time to get pitchers ready. Track, tennis, lacrosse and golf would not likely need as much time to get ready, but the usual level of play would assuredly be lower than normal.
But if that means some kind of season, some ugly games and lopsided outcomes are better than nothing.
So, if this would go off on this current timeline, what would a regular season, or postseason, look like?
Let’s start with the easy ones. Golf and track could get in a couple of meets without much trouble. Same goes for tennis, which could use Saturdays to play some tournaments or double-headers. Not ideal, but none of this is going to be anyway.
Lacrosse also wouldn’t need much of a ramp up to the playoffs, so maybe have section coaches split the teams into pools. Each section, for math’s sake, could be eight teams. Two pools of four, three guaranteed games and — fingers-crossed — four others if cross-pool play would work.
The same could go for softball, especially with double-headers being easier to manage than lacrosse or baseball.
And that leaves baseball. That is going to be incredibly difficult, especially for smaller schools that are limited with pitchers by definition, and other schools with fewer capable arms. The pool-play scenario would still work, though it would likely have to be done with double-headers on, say, Tuesdays and Fridays with a possible fifth game featuring JV pitching that may or may not count in the standings but still gives batters and position players reps they need.
Allowing teams to continue to play after being eliminated would also be something to consider, to at least give the student-athletes something resembling a full season.
Again, whatever a season would look like, even if it’s a modified playoff-only scenario (triple elimination, perhaps), most everyone with a stake in the games would be happy to just get out and compete, cover and see some sports.
The other scenario is complete cancellation, but for now let’s hold on to a bit of hope.
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