Messalonskee High softball player Brooke Martin, shown batting in a game last spring. “Hearing that (the season is) pushed back even more,” she says, “it’s like ‘Oh my goodness, are we ever going to be able to actually get on the field and get ready to play?’ Kennebec Journal photo by Travis Barrett

Kyle Douin heard the news over the Cony High loudspeakers. The coronavirus pandemic had caused spring sports practices to be delayed by a month.

“They announced it over the intercom, and you could kind of look around and see everyone’s face,” said the junior, a top pitcher at the Augusta school. “Everyone’s upset, and we’re frustrated with this.”

Baseball and softball conditioning were originally scheduled to start March 23, with opening day on April 16. Now high school practices won’t begin until April 27 and if a season can still be salvaged, it will surely be abbreviated.

“It’s pretty frustrating, to put all that work in in the offseason and you’re getting all excited for the season to start, and something like this happens and it just kind of throws that out of whack,” Douin said. “But it’s definitely the right thing to do, seeing the news and everything that’s going on, and how badly people are being affected.”

The decision to delay spring sports, made Friday morning by the Maine Principals’ Association in reaction to the virus outbreak, was disappointing news for many for high school athletes – though not completely unexpected.

Zoe Young, a senior pitcher on Old Orchard Beach’s softball team, said the decision allayed some fears, but others persist. “I’m hoping it’s just getting pushed back and not getting rid of the rest of the season,” she said. “I’ve really been looking forward to this season but now I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Peter Coleman, a junior catcher for the Old Orchard baseball team, is optimistic that the season will be played. “It’s safer and it also gives us more time to prepare,” he said.

Haley Moody of Kennebunk says of the spring season delay: “I think it was very smart. There’s a lot of unknowns with what’s going on.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

At Kennebunk, senior Haley Moody, a senior goalie on the girls’ lacrosse team, said the decision eased some of her worries. As an intern in the athletics office, she heard several conversations over the last couple of days and worried about her senior season.

“I think it was very smart,” she said of the delayed start. “There’s a lot of unknowns with what’s going on. And at this point, all of us are just happy they didn’t didn’t cancel the season. We’ll take what they give us. We’re just glad we have chance to play.”

Brooke Martin, a catcher on the Messalonskee softball team, said the decision was tough to hear given the mild weather for mid-March.

“I drive by our field every single morning, and I can see that there’s no snow on it. And it’s like ‘Oh my goodness, it’s time,'” she said. “Everyone knows the season is coming, it’s right here. Then hearing it’s pushed back, it’s like, ‘We’re so close!'”

The likelihood that the later start will mean a shorter schedule added to the frustration.

“We just want to play. It’s been really tough,” she said. “And now hearing that it’s pushed back even more, it’s like ‘Oh my goodness, are we ever going to be able to actually get on the field and get ready to play?'”

The rapid changes wrought by the virus leave athletes wondering what’s next – “It doesn’t feel real,” said OOB’s Young – and aware that the planned delay could still turn into a canceled season.

And that concerns Young, who said, “I’ve been playing since I was 5 and something I’ve always looked forward to is my senior year.”

For seniors like Erskine Academy’s Joanna Linscott, a forward on the girls’ lacrosse team, seeing their final season shortened stings even more.

“I honestly couldn’t believe it. It’s kind of crazy. I didn’t think it would affect our season like this,” she said. “I always thought my senior year would be one of the best years. The fact that we might not even have a season is kind of disappointing.”

That remains to be seen, but Linscott was happy to hear that there was still hope for the season to resume.

“I was definitely happy to hear we had any season at all,” she said. “I know it’s an important and big decision to make.”

Cony’s Douin will welcome a truncated season over a canceled one.

“Definitely. It gives you some hope, and it makes you want to keep working and be that much more prepared for when the season does start,” he said. “Anything’s better than nothing.”

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