RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — When the Shaw Bears softball schedule came out everyone circled opening day. March 18 couldn’t get here soon enough for the players that had last season cut short due to COVID-19.
Unfortunately, it rained that day and the double-header was canceled.
Their next game was just three days away so back to the practice field but then that was canceled as well. Over the next few weeks be it due to bad weather or COVID-19 issues the Shaw Bears had their first 12 games canceled.
“It’s tough you know we come out here and we practice every single day and then right as we’re having a great practice before a game I have to look at the girls and say we don’t have a game tomorrow,” said head coach Mercedes Hargett. “COVID issues were evitable. It’s bound to happen and I don’t wish it on anybody but it happens weather happens as well but through it, we still practice we still get it in the way we’re supposed to and we’re always ready”
“It’s a little frustrating but the girls you know the team is pretty resilient. We work pretty hard Monday through Friday even on Saturdays and just to have games canceled you know it’s a little hard,” said senior outfielder Carla Sosa. “It’s a little tough but it’s expected you know we came to the season kind of knowing what it was already with COVID going on and we’re in the middle of a pandemic so we were expecting things like that.”
Expected maybe but it’s still a letdown nonetheless when it happens. Especially as close to game-time as the team has had some contests called off.
“Fayetteville State, we were high and we were like yeah we’re playing tomorrow finally after a year of being off,” said Sosa. “As soon as practice ended and I looked into the dugout and I saw Coach on the phone and I was like she doesn’t look too happy.”
“We were already finishing up practice probably about 5 o’clock and you know my AD called me and said you don’t have a game tomorrow,” said Hargett. “We were ready to get on the bus the very next morning and then it just didn’t happen.”
They finally did get their first game of the season in on April 6 and it took another week before they were finally able to play home today against Elizabeth City State University. From their last game in 2020 until their home opener today it’s been a whopping 406 days. Luckily only we kept count for all they care about is playing softball.
“We’re so excited to play,” said Sosa. “We practice every day getting ready to play knowing we might not have a game this weekend or a game this week.”
“It’s absolutely wonderful. We are super glad to be out here and glad to be at our home field,” said Hargett. “Just doing what we love. We practice every day so the girls are excited to put their product on the field at home.”
You would think the constant cancellations and having the proverbial rug yanked out from underneath of them for so long would have dampened their spirits at practice but you would be wrong.
“We catch ourselves in the middle of practice sometimes and will be like OK the energy is not looking too hot so we will huddle in and talk to ourselves,” said Sosa. “We’re still practicing to play so let’s pick up the energy level let’s tune in and focus you know. Minimize the errors and pick it up and we always finish strong even though we start slow sometimes.”
It’s a small miracle they are even having a season. The CIAA canceled plans for spring sports on February 6. The schools had the option to schedule games as they saw fit to compete and possibly qualify for NCAA Division II postseason participation should they meet minimum requirements.
It’s a challenge for a veteran head coach and a tall task for a first-year skipper like coach Hargett.
“I usually have a calendar that set for the year that lets everybody know what we’re doing and when we’re doing it but because of COVID and other things it’s just always changing,” said Hargett. “It’s an everyday thing to try to keep up with it but we do the best we can and it just takes a whole lot of communication. I communicate with the girls they communicate with me and that keeps everything pretty smooth.”
On Tuesday, the softball powers that be graced the Bears with sunny skies and warm breezes as they hit the field for their first home game of the year. The team may have dropped both games of the double-header but in this case….. just getting on the field was a win.
This is not the easiest year I’ve ever had it’s been quite a ride but nonetheless, we’re making it we’re doing what we can what we’re supposed to and it’s easy because I love what I do I love these girls and they make it easier.
“This is not the easiest year I’ve ever had and it’s been quite a ride but nonetheless we’re making it,” said Hargett. “We’re doing what we can, what we’re supposed to and it’s easy because I love what I do. I love these girls and they make it easier.”