There was a buzz in the air anticipating the start of the baseball and softball seasons at Solon Springs and Northwood (Minong) high schools.
This is the first year the schools joined forces and will co-op in both sports, but with the pandemic, fans will have to wait to get a glimpse of the new Eagle/Evergreen teams.
“It’s been frustrating for everybody,” Solon Springs/Northwood softball coach Dale Rajala said. “There was so much enthusiasm and excitement for our new program to begin with Northwood. Everyone was really looking forward to seeing what the softball and baseball teams could do considering how much talent we both have.”
The new softball and baseball teams will be members of the Lakeland - East Conference along with Birchwood, Bruce, Clear Lake, Cornell/Lake Holcombe, Flambeau, Prairie Farm and Winter.
“We've spent a lot of time planning for our first season with Northwood, trying to make things as equitable as possible for two programs fusing into one,” Solon Springs/Northwood baseball coach Nathan Alberg said. “But that’s all been put on hold. I think everyone understands the necessity for the precautions and are doing the best they can.”
NOTES: Ironically, Northwood’s softball season ended last year with a 3-2 loss to Solon Springs, while Solon Springs’ baseball season ended with a 6-2 loss to Northwood.
Both teams were successful last season. Solon Springs finished with an overall record of 17-2 and won the Indianhead Conference at 15-1.
Northwood was 12-6 overall and won the Lakeland - East Conference with a 6-1 record.
“We’re still hoping we can get on the field soon,” Rajala said. “There have been years where we haven’t been out on the field until after May 1, because of weather, so hopefully we can get through this and have an opportunity to play. If not, I’m sure there will be a number of high school teams looking for games and tournaments to compete in this summer.
“My heart goes out to all the seniors who were looking forward to playing this season throughout the state and across the country. This is something we have never seen before.”
Rajala may also miss out on coaching his daughter, Kylli, for her senior season.
“The thought of not seeing my daughter have the opportunity to play one more season hasn’t been easy,” Dale Rajala said. “But we continue to prepare for the opportunity to take the field again. We are still going to make sure we’re ready if and when that happens.
“We just have to continue to stay positive and hope for the best.”
Solon Springs/Northwood has already had 11 games either postponed or canceled. Its next game on the slate is at Bruce on Monday, April 27. The WIAA Division 5 playoffs are set to begin on Thursday, May 21.
It’s not very often the baseball field in Solon Springs is playable at the beginning of the season.
Unfortunately, this is one of those years.
“It’s frustrating that everyone is missing out on at least a portion of a baseball season, especially for the eight seniors on our roster,” Ahlberg said. “It’s also frustrating that fields are dry, and we're unable to be on them.”
Because of the pandemic, Solon Springs/Northwood has had seven games either canceled or postponed. Its next game on the schedule is Monday, April 27, at Bruce.
Ten games remain after that, and the WIAA playoffs are scheduled to begin on Thursday, May 28.
“Many kids have a brother, neighbor or mom/dad they can play catch with to keep in shape, after all, playing catch requires social distance,” Ahlberg said. “I'm staying in contact with my players and coaches through a group text. We've been discussing our program's core values and will also discuss the vision/goals for this year. At least we can accomplish those things apart from one another.”
Northwood was 11-8 overall last year and finished third in the Lakeland - East Conference at 9-6. Bruce (9-3) finished in first place and Flambeau (6-2) was second.
The Evergreens' season ended with an 18-0 loss to eventual state champion Webster in the regional finals.
Solon Springs was 12-8 last year, including 10-6 in the Indianhead Conference, which was good for fourth place.
This story was updated on April 9 at 10:58 a.m. with comments from the Solon Springs/Northwood baseball coach. It was originally posted on April 9 at 7 a.m.