Spring Break is over, and so is the time for easing into the spring sports season. For the next month and a half, everything takes on increased importance.
The first month of the season in any sport is generally a feeling-out process. If you’re an underclassman, you’re getting used to competing at the varsity level for the first time and all the extra pressure that goes with it. If you’re an upperclassman, you’re adjusting to a new leadership role and a new crew of younger teammates looking to you for guidance. Everyone’s trying to build chemistry and coaches are trying to figure out what their best lineup looks like and who fits best where.
But now, it’s April. Region play is in full swing. The time for experimentation, with few exceptions, is over. If an experiment backfires, unless you’re far and away better than the rest of the teams in your region, it could be the difference between making the state tournament and staying home. Now’s not the time for underclassmen to be nervous — those freshmen and sophomores have to grow up in a hurry.
And, lo and behold, a lot of them have. Look at Tooele’s baseball team, where the bottom of the Buffaloes’ batting order helped them to a pair of wins over Bonneville last week. Or Stansbury’s softball team, which has youngsters Payten Staley and Maame Johnson in the heart of their lineup along with senior Kaeley Loader. The softball teams at Grantsville and Tooele also have young players in key positions, and they’re thriving and have legitimate state championship hopes.
Even for the softball teams, who have nothing to worry about from the standpoint of whether they’re going to make the playoffs, the next month and a half takes on increased importance. It’s OK to not be at your best in March — it’s even understandable, considering the limited practice opportunities thanks to the weather. But now’s the time they’d like to start showing glimpses of who they’re going to be in May. Those bats need to start becoming more consistent and the defense and pitching need to be even sharper.
For the local baseball and soccer teams, with the exception of the dominant Grantsville baseball squad, they find themselves in the muddled middle of the playoff race. Everything is still up for grabs and every game represents a tipping point. These teams can’t afford one bad game. They have to be at their best every game now. Talk about pressure. Fortunately, they’re all well-coached enough that they’re up for the challenge.
So, I hope everybody enjoyed their Spring Break. Now, it’s back to work, full speed ahead between now and mid-May.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He also enjoyed his Spring Break. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.