SMITHVILLE — Smithville baseball surprised a lot of people when its four-senior squad rattled off 16 wins as the Warriors advanced to the district semifinals in 2019.
The team entered this spring with 11 seniors ready to show they still had a few more surprises left.
Now, it will be a surprise if they even get to take the field.
The Warriors were hoping to start their season on Friday, March 20, against Blue Springs in the first of five games in six days for the Metro Leadoff Tournament.
That event, and the rest of their season, was put on hold as Missouri schools announced closures through April 24 to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Smithville head coach Josh Speer said his team has been looking forward to this season for a long time.
“They’ve worked extremely hard and my heart just breaks for them right now,” Speer said.
Speer added the uncertainty has been the hardest part as his players are left unsure if the season will happen and what it might look like if it does.
Missouri State High School Activities Association has avoided canceling spring sports championships up to this point in hopes that the situation will improve.
“I think they are starting to have conversations on if we could push (the season) a little bit later and what that would look like,” he said. “But that’s never happened before.”
Speer had conversations with his players about keeping a routine through this process, which also applies to the players staying on top of coursework during virtual school days.
“They have to take care of business and graduate; make sure they are on track with that,” Speer said.
In terms of working out without team practices, Speer said he told the players to work harder than they’ve ever worked and prepare as if the season is going to start on April 24.
Senior catcher Cameron Nuckolls has used the uncertainty as motivation to keep improving his game since he doesn’t know when he’ll need to be ready to play. He works out in his garage each day, doing cone drills and using a sock net to practice his swing.
Sometimes he tries to get a family member, neighbor or teammate to go out to his backyard to help him practice throwing, one of the few athletic activities that can be conducted at least six feet away from the other person.
“It’s been really tough,” Nuckolls said. “There’s definitely been some hard days where your thoughts don’t stop running. … It’s kind of hard to stay positive about it.”
One senior, Spencer Miller, has pushed himself to hit every single day with as many trips as possible to the batting cages in the area.
Miller’s determination to play comes after he missed half of his junior year to a knee injury. He rehabbed and worked his way back, hoping to compete with his teammates for one final season.
“We have a great group of guys who have really bonded over the past couple of years,” Miller said. “We’re a pretty tight group. We all worked really, really hard. It definitely sucks, but haven’t let it get us down.”