If one clicks on the Illinois High School Association website to look for a list of State Series host sites in baseball and softball, they’ll see, “Sites will be posted as soon as they are completed.”
That will likely occur in 2021.
Shortly after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the closing of schools for the rest of the academic year on Friday due to COVID-19 concerns, the IHSA said it would determine the fate of spring sports in a teleconference among its Board of Directors on Tuesday.
Given its previous stance that it would be difficult to conduct state tournaments without simultaneous in-person learning, it’s hard to imagine the IHSA making a 180-degree pivot and opting to play even a shortened season.
Barring a stunning development, baseball, softball, track and field, girls soccer and boys tennis must wait until next year to play.
“The first thing is sadness — you feel for the kids,” Carbondale athletic director Mark Albertini said minutes after the IHSA issued its press release. “But you realize it’s the right thing to do. You’re thinking about the safety of everyone.
“I passed along the email from the coaches and told them to not give up hope yet. We still have a shot at this, although based on verbiage, it’s not looking good.”
Coronavirus has ravaged the sports world since March 11, when the NBA suspended games at the end of that night’s schedule. The NFL has been the only pro sports league to escape major effects, mainly because its season ended in February with the Super Bowl.
The IHSA canceled remaining winter State Series events March 12, less than 24 hours before Goreville’s boys were to play Roanoke-Benson in the Class 1A semifinals at Peoria Civic Center. The next day, Pritzker closed schools until March 30.
Since then, spring sports coaches have been keeping up with players on social media and via group texts. The goal was to stay positive, even though they knew the odds against a spring sports season were lengthening.
“It’s been a feeling of oncoming doom over the last month,” Pinckneyville softball coach Alan Engelhardt said. “The doom has finally arrived.”
Marion baseball coach Marty Manfredo felt bad not just for his eight seniors, but for the rest of his players. Of his 16 players, nine don’t play a second sport. Most had prepared for last month’s season opener since last year ended with a sectional loss.
That opportunity is likely gone.
“They’re all geared up and ready to go, and all of a sudden, it’s yanked out from under them,” Manfredo said. “I think it’s a pretty foregone conclusion that the season is going to be canceled. Personally, I don’t think they can justify us playing if they don’t think it’s safe enough to go to school.”
The IHSA has been flexible in its decision-making and with considering adjustments to its calendar. Executive director Craig Anderson said on April 1 that the organization would consider going all the way to the end of June if necessary to determine state champions.
It has been that carrot that has kept student-athletes hopeful since the middle of March. Whether it’s the senior-laden baseball team at Harrisburg or Du Quoin track star Grace Alongi, hoping to help the Indians capture a second straight Class 1A championship, they’ve been able to maintain at least a wishful sense that there might be some kind of season.
Although the last word won’t happen until Tuesday, Friday afternoon brought a sad sense of finality to dreams that were formed years ago.
“It wasn’t ever supposed to be like this,” tweeted Nashville multi-sport athlete Elise Spencer.
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