It has been a frustrating start to the conference season for America East baseball teams.
Winter has refused to release its grip on the Northeast, while the 2015 schedule format has further complicated a difficult situation for programs including the University of Maine.
It’s time for America East to make some changes to improve the experience for its baseball student-athletes.
This season, the conference schedule was slated to begin for four teams on March 14. Nobody played that day, although Hartford and UMBC were able to play March 15-16 in West Hartford, Connecticut, while Stony Brook and Binghamton did the same on Long Island.
The following weekend, UMaine traveled five hours to Hartford and got in only one game because of snow and cold weather — despite having artificial turf. Albany and UMass Lowell lost all three games in Massachusetts.
Last weekend, UMaine and Stony Brook played twice on Friday, but canceled their third game in Orono because of weather issues. The Black Bears have not played four of their nine scheduled America East games. After Monday, Albany and UMass Lowell also will have lost four games each through three weekends of league play.
The league can improve those numbers by making a key adjustment.
America East should push the start of its conference schedule back to the first of April and conduct seven weekends of league play leading up to the postseason. Rather than fighting the weather in March, teams would be free to schedule nonleague games in places where conditions farther to the south that are generally more conducive to baseball.
Delaying conference play would aid the schools most adversely affected by inclement, early-spring weather — UMaine, Albany and Binghamton — by allowing things to thaw out a bit before starting the league schedule.
With a proposed later schedule, the league’s seven teams would go through six weekends of America East play, with a bye week built in. The games format should be changed to include back-to-back doubleheaders, perhaps each consisting of one nine-inning game and a seven-inning contest.
The 32 innings of play would be an increase of seven compared to the 25 contested under the present three-game arrangement that includes two nine-inning games and one of seven innings.
It seems that if America East baseball teams are going to spend several thousand dollars and numerous hours riding on the bus around the Northeast, they should be rewarded by being able to play.
The conference schedule makes up approximately one-half of the season for America East teams and is crucial in preparing them for the America East Baseball Championship, which will determine the league’s lone representative in the NCAA tournament.
Given the frustration of weather-related postponements and cancellations this spring, America East baseball coaches are likely to be searching for a better way to get games in. They should be able to gain the backing of athletics directors, who could reduce the headaches of weather-related issues.
America East would be well served to delay league play by a few weeks and give its teams a fighting chance to play ball.