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Spring teams make most of indoor time to start season

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 12:16 a.m.
Bill Shirley | Daily Courier
Connellsville baseball player Evan Onusko makes a catch while teammate Brock Bonadio backs up the play during practice Monday, March 3, 2014, at Connellsville High School.

Although the snow and cold temperatures say otherwise, Monday was the start of spring — at least when it comes to high school sports.

Monday marked the first day for baseball, softball, track and boys tennis teams to officially begin practicing for their respective seasons, which all are slated to start this month.

Of course, the winter weather kept first-day practices confined to gymnasiums. Still, plenty can be accomplished not only on the first day of practice, but also during all the time spent indoors.

“Indoor time allows us to do a lot of work on individual skills,” Connellsville baseball coach Rob Orndorff said. “We spend extra time on individual things so that when we get outside, we can work on team concepts.”

Orndorff also noted that a lot of mental training can take place during the time teams are confined. In many instances, mental training is just as important as the physical aspect.

“We're working with them on how to handle adversity,” Orndorff said. “Baseball is a game of failure, but you can still succeed. If you get a hit three out of every 10 times, you can make it to the major leagues. We've got a lot of young kids that have really put in the time leading up to the first official day of practice. We have kids that are hungry, and we're excited about (this season).”

Mt. Pleasant track coach Shawn Thompson also plans to use the time inside as a way to prepare his team for what lies ahead when conditions are favorable for getting outside.

“These first couple of days we are able to get organized,” Thompson said, noting that some time is spent simply on making sure that each athlete has all the paperwork, such as physical forms, filled out properly.

Of course, there is actual training involved as well.

“We'll go through some stretching and teach them our drills so that when we get outside, we're ready to go,” Thompson said.

For Frazier softball coach Paul Harvey, making the most of a tough situation is key.

“We actually do have a batting cage in the gym, so we can do a little bit of hitting,” Harvey said. “But it's not like facing live pitching. They can hit off of a tee, and we can hit them some ground balls, and that's about it. You do the best you can inside.”

All spring sports teams can hold their first scrimmages Saturday. The first play date for baseball, softball and track teams is March 21. However, the boys tennis season can begin with matches as early as March 10. For that reason, there is a pressing need to get outside as soon as possible.

“We have five matches next week, so we're hoping to get some work in (outside),” Southmoreland boys tennis coach Jim Kessler said, noting that he hopes his team can be on a dry court outside within the next three or four days. In the meantime, the gymnasium and the weight room are the best options available.

“We're in the weight room doing exercises on shoulders and arms,” Kessler said, pointing out that often times the Southmoreland track team and tennis team share the gym. “They go through a little routine in the gym, and we do some running. We just try to keep them busy.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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