The end of April has traditionally meant playoffs for high school baseball and softball teams statewide, but it’s a different story in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s recent decision to scrap all remaining sporting events – games and championships – for 2020.
For Cindy Prouty, a St. John graduate who serves has the school’s athletic director and coaches her alma mater’s softball program, the timing could not have been worse.
Her team had some inexperience on the field as she tried to figure a consistent starting lineup after 10 games, but it’s the seniors who have felt the brunt of the cancellation.
“All three of them had been playing major roles in our program’s success through their high school years,” she said. “This was not just something that was given … they had to earn it, be thankful of it and embrace, and with all the pain and preparation, you never know when it can be taken from you.”
It’s just as disappointing for the coaches, she said.
“We like to finish what we start, and we didn’t get that opportunity this year,” Prouty said.
St. John and other schools across Louisiana paid homage to players last week through the “Light Up” campaign, where they all turned up stadium lights.
“We had all our seniors across park along the road, and fortunately for us, our fields are accessible to the streets, so they had fans and supporters drive by over a 20-minute span – all done with social distancing,” she said. “That’s the least we could do to send them out.”
Her three seniors – Madison Young, Grayson Schnebelen and Elise Jackson – have plans after graduation, but only Jackson plans to continue her softball career at the present time.
Jackson will attend Tuskegee University, where she will major in Veterinary Medicine. The right-fielder batted .4209 and finished with a team-high 15 RBIs.
Schnebelen remains undecided about where she will attend college, but she plans to pursue a degree. The pitcher/first baseman batted .300 with 10 RBIs.
Young has been accepted to the LSU College of Art and Design and will seek acceptance in the Architecture Program. She is in the running for valedictorian, and finished her softball career as a center fielder with a .280 batting average and nine RBIs.
Two different stories come into play for local baseball. At Plaquemine High, a young roster means that the team will be intact next year, first-year head coach Tait Dupont said.
It still does not make the situation easy to bear, he said.
“We had gotten to 6-5 and things were looking up for us,” he said. “It’s tough because I try to communicate with my guys once a week, but it’s really though because there’s a distance between players and coaches, and we can’t have anything organized together.”
It’s an even tougher blow for St. John baseball coach Brian Brown, whose roster included nine seniors.
The worst part was when he had to notify the players.
“I was disappointed and heartbroken that I had to call them to deliver the news – it was a blow to the gut,” he said. “When you share bad news, you want to be there with them.”
The Eagles finished 5-7 but won their last game 8-7 over Patterson in a tournament at Central Catholic in Morgan City, where they ended the weekend 2-1. Joseph Schlatre had the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
He gave the players one challenge during their finale.
“I told them to love each other deeper,” Brown said. They showed that in the way they encouraged each other and played for one another as a team.
“We didn’t quit on each other,” he said. “We encouraged each other with respect.”
The shutdown of athletics – and schools, in general – pose a greater concern for Prouty.
She worries about the overall wellbeing of students during the forced sabbatical.
“There’s so much to take in, like how so many students are “stuck” at home when their comfort place may have been at school,” Prouty said. “maybe that was the best meal of the day or where they felt safest, and maybe teachers showed them more interest than their own family.
“The one true, never changing thing should be our faith in God,” she said. “He will see us through this.”