The Hickman and Rock Bridge softball teams are finding out that the start of the season doesn’t mesh well with abundant rainfall.
After a week of thunderstorms, the teams will enter this weekend’s 16th annual Columbia College Invitational having had limited time to prepare. The two-day, eight-team tournament begins today at Cougar Field and Rock Bridge Field.
“The weather’s affected us quite negatively,” Rock Bridge coach Jennifer Mast said Tuesday night. “We weren’t able to practice at all Monday. (Tuesday) we practiced, but we weren’t able to use the fields at all. We needed this week, and this is really kind of frustrating.”
Hickman also changed practice plans Monday and Tuesday, opting to practice indoors at the Armory Sports Center. Coach Courtney Haskell, who will enter her second season as the Kewpies coach, was more concerned with her team’s lack of experience, though.
Two seniors and five letter-winners return from last season’s 8-18 team. While senior outfielder Lindsey Rock and junior pitcher Stefani Worley will make a strong tandem, Haskell said younger players will have to fill holes, especially on defense.
“We lost some good players from last year. We’re going to be a young team, but the girls are going to be expected to play hard and improve with each game,” Haskell said.
Hickman, 0-1 this season after Thursday’s loss to Westran, will play twice today, against Eureka at 2 p.m. and again at 5 p.m. against Oklahoma’s Edmund North High. Haskell said she hopes a good showing this weekend will set the tone for the season.
“You always want to start the season out on the right foot,” Haskell said. “(This tournament) is a good way to start. It’s got a lot of quality teams and most of these schools have strong traditions.”
Rock Bridge finds itself in a similar situation. Although the team returns five starters, including all-district junior centerfielder Kendall Brown, Mast said many uncertainties remain.
“We have a very, very young team,” Mast said. “This tournament is kind of a first test for us. We lost a lot of talented players to graduation, and at this point, we’re just trying to find nine players who can play together.”
Rock Bridge opens its season today at 2 p.m. against Mexico. Mast said she plans to use the next two days to evaluate where the Bruins stand.
“The two St. Louis schools (Eureka and Lafayette) are always strong,” Mast said. “The team from Oklahoma is a wild card, nobody really knows much about them. It’ll be interesting to see how we stack up.”
Although unlikely, a Hickman-Rock Bridge showdown this weekend is possible. The two teams will start the tournament in different pools, but could face each other in one of Saturday’s four division final games.
“It’d be great to start out the season with a win over Rock Bridge,” Haskell said. “But I think that any win is a big win, especially at this point in the season. We struggled a bit last year, and I think we just have to take this season one game at a time.