Across the Lynchburg area, high school teams are scrambling to adjust their schedules after the Virginia High School League announced Thursday afternoon it would postpone the majority of its Spring Jubilee state tournaments because of threats of inclement weather.
Local teams affected by the move are Liberty softball and baseball teams at Brookville High and Liberty Christian Academy.
The only local team not affected by the move is E.C. Glass’ boys lacrosse team, which will play Riverside in the Class 4 state championship Saturday at 9 a.m. at Salem High School.
The VHSL changed either the location or dates of Class 1 through 4 baseball and softball, Class 3 and 4 tennis doubles and team tourneys, and Class 3 girls soccer. There are no Lynchburg area teams or individuals left in the Class 1 and 2 state tournaments, which are held in Blacksburg, Radford and Pulaski.
Class 3 and 4 games are held at various locations in Salem.
Liberty girls softball will now play its Class 3 semifinal against Warren County on Thursday at Moyer Complex, with a 9 a.m. start.
In Class 3 baseball, Brookville takes on Tabb High on June 13 at Kiwanis Field at 9 a.m. In the Class 4 semifinals, LCA battles Lafayette at 3 p.m. in a game moved from Salem Memorial Ballpark to Kiwanis.
Should any of the three advance, they would play in the finals on Friday, June 14, with Class 3 softball scheduled for 9 a.m. at Moyer, the Class 3 finals at 9 a.m. at Kiwanis and the Class 4 championship at noon at Kiwanis.
Reaction to the postponements was mixed Wednesday.
“I think it helps, if anything,” Brookville baseball coach Chris Glaize said, referring to the extra rest the changes will provide for his players. “We’re ready to play, that’s the only thing.”
At Liberty High, things were a little more uncertain. Softball coach Mike Thompson called the move “a mess,” noting several of his players had already made plans for next week, since they thought state tournaments would have concluded by then. The move can eat into vacation plans, college visits and summer leagues.
“I give them the schedule at the beginning of the year and say, ‘This is when it’s gonna end, and you have to be dedicated until then,’” the coach said. “But it never says, ‘Or possibly another week.’”
Liberty (20-6) is making a return to the state tournament after falling in the Class 3 state semifinals last year, a season that marked the first trip to a softball state tournament in the school’s history.
“I’m very disappointed,” Liberty star pitcher Millie Thompson said. “We’ve been out of school for three weeks. Some schools are still there, still in that routine. Not that I don’t want to play — I want to win — but it is our summer. People have things to do, and it’s tough on us. … I’m glad we’re getting some rest, but then again, we’ve been on a roll, and now we’re getting slowed up, so it kind of sucks.”
On Wednesday, the league pushed many of its starting times for Friday and Saturday’s games forward in an attempt to avoid rain. But by Thursday, league communications director Mike McCall said, the chance for inclement weather had increased.
For the Class 3 and 4 championships, the league came to its decision with the help of individuals in Salem, such as those in charge of field maintenance.
“Utmost is player safety and fans’ safety driving back and forth,” McCall said. “Is is going to hurt our attendance or our gate? You don’t think about those things [when making decisions].”
Neither Glaize nor LCA coach Randy Tomlin expect to be shorthanded next week. Both coaches did say, however, their players were disappointed when they found out about the postponements Thursday.
“Everybody has plans to get into their summer or their vacation or other stuff, but it’s not often you get to play for a state championship,” Tomlin said.
The Bulldogs enter with a 25-1 record and have reeled off 22 straight victories since their March 22 loss to Jefferson Forest. They’ve often pummeled opponents by wide margins during that span.
The state postponements can act as a double-edged sword: they can give players a chance to rest but also could cause a team to lose momentum.
“It’s tough for that very reason,” Tomlin said. “We have to keep them focused every day to stay on track, to come out each day to work and be better than they are today.”
At Brookville, too, emotions were mixed.
Glaize said his team, fresh off a state quarterfinal win over Lord Botetourt, wasn’t worried about losing momentum. Brookville enters the semifinals with a 19-8 record.
“They’re ready to go and disappointed we can’t go [today],” Glaize said. “But I think we’ll be fine. Five more days of practice, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Liberty catcher Machenze Flood said her team would “work through the setbacks.” Mike Thompson, meanwhile, said “who knows,” when asked if he could find any positives in the scheduling changes.
“Maybe we have somebody that gets a little extra strength and something good happens,” he said, “but I’m trying to convince them that it’s not good or bad, it just is, and you have to control what you can control.”
Staff writer Emily Brown contributed to this report. Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.