It’s May and tournament time in Arkansas.
Business as usual, which means bring your sunscreen, sunglasses, flip-flops, boots and parkas and wear shorts or fleece to any given ballgame.
What happened Friday and Saturday at state baseball, softball and soccer tournaments throughout the state illustrates how officials have to adapt to a little bit of everything with sudden weather changes.
When you add the logistics of impending graduations and schedules of volunteers, it is a big heaping, mess of decisions on the fly. And somebody is bound to be mad.
The 5A baseball and softball tournaments at Sylvan Hills in Sherwood were a prime example.
Thursday night’s baseball and softball games were suspended by stormy weather and had to be resumed Friday morning.
One of the suspended games involved Batesville and Farmington, schools that are two to three hours away. Thursday’s game was put on hold with Batesville trailing, 9-0. The Batesville team reportedly returned home Friday night, got in about midnight, then assembled about 6 a.m. Friday to bus back to Sherwood to go through the motions in the out-of-hand suspended game that coaches would probably rather have phoned in a concession and saved the gas and meal money.
When the Friday’s original schedule was resumed an hour and a half late, Farmington, about three hours or so away in northwest Arkansas, was to play Magnolia, a similar distance away in south Arkansas.
Storm clouds and rain threatened the entire state. The game before the Farmington-Magnolia matchup, Greenbrier vs. Sylvan Hills, was suspended in the third inning for a lightning delay and the rest of the day’s play was called off because of impending storms, which lingered over central Arkansas most of the day and evening.
Officials from both Farmington and Magnolia had to decide whether to stay overnight or return home and bus back across the state in early morning.
DeQueen, another team about three hours away in southwest Arkansas, had to make a similar decision as play was suspended after the Lady Leopards were preparing to take the field about a quarter mile from the baseball field Friday after Vilonia won its softball quarterfinal against Beebe.
The Vilonia-Beebe game had about a 45-minute lightning delay. It was also decision time whether to resume that game as it entered the seventh inning or suspend it and come back Saturday morning and finish it.
Vilonia and Beebe are close enough so there were no travel issues.
Vilonia had graduation ceremonies Saturday morning.
“I told them (AAA officials) we couldn’t come back and play Saturday morning,” said Vilonia coach Kevin Sullivan.
Officials allowed Vilonia and Beebe to try to beat the approaching storms and finish the game, which they did with Vilonia holding on for victory.
In Conway on Friday, University of Central Arkansas and Southland Conference officials also faced major weather decisions.
UCA began a losers bracket game against Northwestern State at 11 a.m., then the monsoon hit. The game couldn’t be resumed until 5:30 p.m.
When that game was resumed, there were potentially four games left to decide the championship. Officials and coaches decided to try to finish by Friday as originally scheduled, whatever it took. That meant UCA had to play a losers bracket final against Nicholls 30 minutes after it defeated Northwestern State. Nicholls eliminated the Bears in a game that ended about 10:30 p.m.
Thirty minutes later, Nicholls faced McNeese State, unbeaten in the tournament, in the championship round. If Nicholls was to win that game, the rubber match between the two would be played Saturday.
McNeese, clearly the best team in the conference, avoided that logistic with an 8-0 victory over the Colonels in a game that ended in the early hours of Saturday.
Then, the sun indeed came up.
When tournaments begin this time of year, the schedules include a big asterisk or question mark.
Weather ravages the best-laid plans.