The Superior High School baseball team was scheduled to open the 2020 season against the Northwestern Tigers on Tuesday, April 7, in Iron River.
But that game, along with every other spring sporting event across Wisconsin, has been put on hold indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home executive order on March 13, all Wisconsin schools were ordered closed until April 24. Along with that order, the WIAA suspended all athletic participation "for the duration of the public health emergency or until a subsequent order lifts this specific restriction."
During the order, the Spartan baseball team has either canceled or postponed 10 games, while the Tigers, who were scheduled to open the season against Rice Lake on Thursday, April 2, missed 11 games.
“I don’t ever remember anything like this,” SHS coach Don Dembroski said. “The only thing that comes close was in 2013 when bad weather limited us to only 13 regular-season games. We traveled to Mauston twice to scrimmage and play on their turf, and then all the way to Holmen just to get a game.”
The Spartans’ team photo that year was taken on a giant snowbank next to their practice field.
“We also ruined almost all of our baseballs from practicing on the school parking lot,” Dembroski said. “Not being outside in early April is nothing new, but not practicing at all is like nothing I’ve experienced in 20-plus years.”
Dembroski is hoping to get back on the baseball diamond soon, play for a conference title and get ready for the WIAA playoffs. The best case scenario is students getting back to school in May and the team playing a shortened season. The worst case is having to cancel the season.
Dembroski says this spring has been especially tough on his seniors.
“It’s not just games they miss out on, but there is everything that goes on in school, from prom to graduation and everything in between," he said. "For me and the other coaches, we get to do this every year. But the players only get their four years of high school athletics, and only one senior year. Although baseball will eventually return, there was only one shot at the 2020 group of players we had.”
The Spartans were 16-6 last year with their season ending with a 12-11 loss to D.C. Everest in a WIAA regional game at home.
The Spartans were also 7-1 in the Lake Superior Conference, finishing only behind Duluth Marshall (26-1), which went undefeated in the LSC and eventually won the Minnesota Class AA state championship.
Dembroski talked to his players in a video call and advised them to do everything they can safely do on their own to prepare as if a shorter season will happen.
“One of my fears is that we, players and coaches, do nothing and find out we are going to have some sort of shortened season in May. I’d rather see us prepare and potentially not have a season, then do nothing and end up having a shortened season," he said. "If for some reason we don’t have a season, we’ll cross that bridge with our players at that time.”