Oh how I despise Mother Nature … and so does my dog Dozer.
Picture a 93- pound Black Lab-Rottweiler mix up to his chest in snow. Then, picture me fluorescent wiffle balls to him so they do not get buried in the over four feet of snow that has fallen in the last couple of weeks.
You might be thinking what does playing wiffle ball in the snow have to do with the local sports scene?
If the winter does not let up, and the snow doesn’t melt, baseballs might have to be traded in for wiffle ball bats and a gym, rather than a dirt diamond and fresh-cut grass.
I, of course, jest, but it is hard to think that all of this snow will be gone in time for the start of baseball season.
On the news Tuesday night, I saw an image of a snow covered Fenway Park, and I just tried to conjure up the image of perspiring in the bleachers and squinting to see the ball being delivered to the plate.
Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in a little over a week, and meanwhile we are stuck waist-deep in snow with more on the way over the weekend.
Let me tell you, I do not envy the jobs of athletic directors Jon Sweeney (Ayer Shirley) , Pam Alexander (Bromfield School) , Mike McCaffrey (Groton-Dunstable) and James Bunnell (North Middlesex). The poor directors have had to shuffle around games, which are mostly league ones at this point during the season, all before Saturday and Sunday’s district playoff cutoff date.
With so many teams across the region on the cusp of making the tournament by one or two games, every contest is pivotal.
The snowstorm Monday completely wiped out the athletics slate for the day and a lot of the games were moved to this weekend.
North Middlesex and Groton-Dunstable girls’ basketball, which promises to be a great one, has been shifted to Sunday.
But, with another substantial storm expected for Saturday night into Sunday, the likelihood of that game being played before the cutoff is highly unlikely.
For those of you doing snow dances … please stop, we beg of you.
Remember that time around Christmas where people were wondering if it would ever snow again?
How about we go back to that time?
Winter schedules are suffering as a result of it.
Coaches have had to try and keep a rhythm late in the season with all the snow days, which in most cases means the team cannot practice. Games are sometimes the only time the team has worked together during the week. Athletic directors have had to resort to schedule three games back-to-back just to make the playoff cutoff date.
There is nothing anyone can do about it — Mother Nature is a cruel beast, who does not show signs of letting up anytime soon. But, how about the season a majority of the local teams have had.
Starting with the Ayer Shirley boys’ basketball team, who clinched its first berth in the Clark Tournament since 2013. The Panthers come into Monday’s 2:45 tip-off against No. 2 seed Sutton with an overall record of 9-5 and a district tournament berth under its belt.
Head coach Justin Carlson’s squad, while undersized, has a lot of heart and it is not afraid to get a few floor burns for the betterment of their team. There is no one clear-cut high scorer, the Panthers routinely have three-to-four guys post double digits on any given night. Whether it be Christopher Patano, DJ Richard, Jon Durben or Mike Davis, there are no egos — everyone has one goal, make a run in the district tournament.
Shifting gears to Bromfield, second-year head coach Ryan Kilian has guided his Trojans to a playoff berth after its win over Oakmont Tuesday evening. A lot of the success falls on the shoulders of junior point guard Jake Frackiewicz, who has averaged 30 points-per-game in his last three-times out. But, the presence of Ben Neville on the glass can not be underestimated.
Neville averages a double-double per night this season, and Bromfield looks to be a team who could make some noise in the postseason. For much of the year, the Trojans and Ayer Shirley were in the hunt for first-place, but front-runner Maynard is at an upper echelon outside of the Mid-Wach-D.
The Bromfield girls’ program needs just one win to punch its ticket to the postseason.
After starting the season 0-3, Mike Davidson’s Trojans have ramped up their game. Hannah LoChiatto leads Bromfield averaging 12.2 points per game, while junior teammate Amanda Accorsi is a menace on the boards with an average of 8 points-per-game.
Mark Hennelly’s Groton-Dunstable Crusaders have already punched their ticket to the postseason, and right now they are playing for seeding. Hennelly said at the start of the year that he had a special team, but the success it has had this year is fantastic. The Crusaders, who currently sit at 12-5, and 8-2 in league play.
Pat Murphy’s Patriots started off slow, but they have since found their footing. The North Middlesex girls find themselves just one win away from a tournament appearance at the time of publication. Murphy’s team has a very winnable game with Marlboro coming up and another, tough, but feasible game with rival Groton-Dunstable Sunday.
Will North Middlesex be dancing out West? All signs point to yes.
Sticking in Townsend, NM boys’ basketball head coach Justin Maly’s squad sits at 11-7 overall after defeating a resilient Groton-Dunstable side on the road Tuesday night. Junior guard Richie Sharp has been on fire this season, along with senior captain Drew Patno. If those two can continue to put up the points in bunches, and the defense of Nate Sullivan and company continues to wreak havoc, the Patriots might be looking at a home game in the Division 2 Western Mass playoffs. North Middlesex has the strength of schedule in its favor when the committee uses the point system to determine the seeding.
Shifting in the ice box, North Middlesex is having an incredibly hockey season. Mike McCarthy’s team has shown no signs of rust being the new guys in Division 3 after winning the state crown in 3A a year ago. The Patriots are 13-0-2 and look well on their way to a No. 1/2 overall seed barring a collapse in its final four games.
The Patriots welcome Shrewsbury at 1:30 Wednesday for a Roy-Quinn Conference crossover game. North Middlesexhas locked the Roy Conference title, the nearest team, Leominster, at 2-3 in league play.
So, that’s where we stand with the playoff scene as of right now. Will there be a few more locals punching their tickets after selection Saturday/Sunday? We shall see where it all shakes out.
For playoff pairing updates, follow me on Twitter/Tout: @EdNiser.