Friday, Feb. 20 would have been the Richmond baseball team’s home opener, but because of winter weather and delays to the Pitt Field renovations, what was scheduled as the Spiders’ first home game will be played in South Carolina at USC-Salkehatchie.
The three-game series against Holy Cross was already slated to be a pseudo home series to be held at Deep Run High School because the renovations of Pitt Field have not yet been completed.
The baseball staff’s search for an available field with proximity to Richmond led them to choose USC-Salkehatchie as an alternate location, said Matt Tyner, Richmond’s hitting coach and recruiting coordinator.
“The choice is to sit here and work out at home, or play Holy Cross in South Carolina,” Tyner said. “Coach [Tracy] Woodson made about 400,000 phone calls to make this happen.”
Because the team’s schedule is so compact – playing 56 games over 13 weeks – generally, games that are canceled cannot be made up. Canceling all three games of the Holy Cross series would have put the team at a disadvantage right from the start of the season, depriving the Spiders from having as many chances to win as their A-10 opponents.
For that reason, the team was happy to be able to play, though frustrated at having to travel more than six hours for a "home" game. “Once again, we are suffering because of the failure to finish the field,” senior co-captain Ryan Cook said.
“I’m actually extremely happy that we came down to get games in, however, I’m lucky because I have a manageable schedule,” he said. “I guess it will be the best of a weird situation.”
It would have been a challenge to hold the game in Richmond even if the turf field was ready, Tyner said, because the coaches take extremely cold temperatures into consideration when deciding whether to proceed with games. Richmond’s game against Ball State last Sunday was canceled because of freezing temperatures.
Tyner noted, however, that the turf football field was ready to host a women’s lacrosse game on Wednesday – the day after approximately eight inches of snow fell on campus.
“What an advantage it would have been, should it have climbed into the 40s, to be playing right here,” Tyner said.
Having a home game that isn’t actually at home becomes a disadvantage because it disrupts the players’ sleep and eating schedules, Tyner said.
“Your routine becomes compromised,” he said. “Rest was your ally instead of your competitor’s. Both teams playing at a neutral site probably levels the playing field a bit.”
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The Richmond bus did not arrive at USC-Salkehatchie until after 11 p.m. on Thursday. Holy Cross was expected to fly in Friday morning.
The Spiders will be looking to bounce back from two tough losses to open their season. They lost 7-2 to UNC Wilmington and 10-1 to University of Kentucky.
“We certainly didn’t play our best baseball,” Tyner said. “You see how much of a routine-based game it is as you play it. That was our first time playing on an actual field.”
Previously, the team had been practicing on a turf intramural field to prepare for the season. Tyner said he thought the team might have fared better in its first two games if the field had been available for practice.
“The more preparation you can get on a field makes it easier to translate from practice to game,” Tyner said.
Though Pitt Field is still at least two weeks away from being ready for the Richmond team to practice on it, the renovation process is nearing completion. The subsurface of the field is finished, Tyner said. As soon as the snow melts and the ground is dry, the turf can be laid. They expect the field to be ready two weeks after they begin to lay the turf, Tyner said.
Richmond’s game against Holy Cross on Friday will begin at 3 p.m. Game one of Saturday’s doubleheader will start at 11 a.m., with game two following at 2 p.m.
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