As the potential cancellation of their season looms, the St. Paul baseball team is keeping a positive outlook as it awaits word from the OSAA.
The team's season will only resume as early as April 28 if the state allows it, but the team is preparing for the eventuality of not being able to play any of its regular schedule.
It's a shame, too, because the Buckaroos were looking forward to a season with a fully healthy roster of players. The Bucks' depth was something to be excited about as well, according to coach Dwayne Nowlin, who said the team has stayed in touch during the off time.
"Since this started, all I've done is (told) the boys and our coaches to keep their chins up and that the season might not be over," Nowlin said. "I encourage them to go throw the ball around with their brother, their buddy or their dad."
Nowlin said the Bucks have 11 total seniors on the team who are wondering if they might get to play their final season at all. This was supposed to be a season of redemption for St. Paul after an injury-riddled 2019 campaign.
"My senior class is looking really good. TJ Crawford, Steven Coppola, Mitch Curtis, Reed Overfield and a bunch of others are looking ready to play. We are hoping to give them a senior season so they can go out on a high note," Nowlin said. "Everyone remembers last year and all the injuries we had. This year we came in healthy for the most part and I was really looking forward to getting out on the field and seeing what we can do."
The turnout for baseball this season has been extraordinary. After setting a record last year for participation in baseball, the Bucks did it again this year.
"St. Paul is a 1A school, so we have less than 100 kids in our entire high school," Nowlin said. "I had 31 boys out for baseball and another three freshmen who participate in track and are playing Babe Ruth baseball. We have a total of 34 kids in the program if you add it up, which is incredible numbers for a town this size."
Coaches are working on an opportunity for outgoing seniors to play American Legion ball this summer, should the season be cancelled completely. The same is true at Newberg High School, where coaches have discussed playing a miniature version of the season this upcoming summer once the COVID-19 scare is over.
Last season, St. Paul played just over a dozen games of summer ball. They aim to play more this summer should their regular season disappear.
"Usually, the kids who graduate don't get to play in the summer league," Nowlin said. "With everything going on, we will let them play this summer so they can at least get some baseball in before they head off wherever they're going. We will have something so these kids can play and have a senior season."
St. Paul's ability to have a junior varsity team is an achievement in itself, but the depth and versatility displayed on the varsity squad is going to be an asset whenever they hit the field again.
"Out of the 14 kids that were going to dress down for varsity, 11 of them can pitch," Nowlin said. "Last year, it was if you wanted to win a game, you handed the ball to Justin Herberger. This year, we have a bunch of kids that can pitch and the depth will help us."
This group wants to build on the success it had last season and deliver a strong performance, whenever it can play again. Nowlin anticipates the team will see the field again, whether that is in a shortened regular season and playoffs or during the patchwork summer schedule intended to give these kids one more shot.
"Last year was the first year that St. Paul had ever won a game in baseball," Nowlin said. "We wanted to build on that with our younger kids and our older kids, and we were feeling really good about the season."
For more information and updates from the OSAA on spring sports postponements or cancellations, visit www.OSAA.org or follow along on the organization's Twitter and Facebook pages.
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