Editor’s Note: The Appeal is working to feature as many area teams as possible following the temporary shutdown of spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today: East Nicolaus High softball speaks out about a forced hiatus to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
After back-to-back, 30-plus win seasons and a couple section titles to boot, the East Nicolaus High softball team was primed and ready to compete for a third-straight Northern Section Division V championship this year.
The Spartans got off to a 6-0 start, giving up only two runs in the process, before everything came to a screeching halt in light of the coronavirus pandemic and trying to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Yuba-Sutter schools, including East Nicolaus have been closed, and spring sports came to a halt amid public health concerns.
Much like a rain delay on a smaller level, the players are now waiting out the concerns surrounding coronavirus, in hopes of finishing out their seasons. Earlier this week the CIF stopped short of permanently canceling spring sports as a way to see what transpires in a few weeks.
“As much as we want to be out there, and trust me I want to be out there, with the current situation, being cautious is far more important than logging innings until we can get a handle on this thing and get back on the field,” said East Nicolaus coach Neil Stinson.
Stinson said he encouraged his players to stay mentally and physically ready while abiding within state public health guidelines.
He said school is scheduled to resume on April 15 unless new developments arise.
“I am heartbroken for our (players), but we don’t want our athletes passing anything on to family members,” Stinson said. “I encourage them to do the things they do within the safety guidelines.”
Savannah Price, one of three four-year varsity players and a future Arizona State Sun Devil, said she’s currently in Alturas working on her softball skills in the event her season resumes.
“I definitely hit in my garage,” Price said. “I’m sad and disappointed at the fact that all this has happened. Making the memories with my teammates is definitely what I am going to miss the most.”
Price and East Nicolaus made a boatful of championship-worthy memories a year ago, helping the Spartans capture a second straight title with a 30-2-2 overall. Price and Riley Grigsby were two of the top offensive juggernauts a year ago, while fellow senior Avery Croxall silenced opposing teams in the circle.
While Price is on her way to Tempe, Ariz., to tackle Pac-12 softball next year, Grigsby is slated to attend San Francisco State and play softball and Croxall recently signed with University of Pacific.
All three have bright futures, they’re just hoping for one more opportunities to represent East Nicolaus.
“(Coach) is pretty good at keeping us updated,” Grigsby said. “I’m having a lot more hope that we’ll get to start the season back up and step foot on the field again wearing the high school uniform.”
Grigsby, who just started hitting into a Bownet this week, said for the most part she is staying at home and riding this pandemic out. The second baseman, who hit a whopping .520 last year for East Nicolaus as a junior, said she will continue to work from home in case the Spartans can get back on the field this year.
“I hit a couple into the net to get into the swing of things so I am not rusty,” Grigsby said.
Croxall is also working while sitting at home in Pleasant Grove. Her home has a country-feel, she said, with a big space to work in safely.
“I’m in the middle of nowhere five minutes from East Nicolaus with a big space to pitch,” Croxall said. “Definitely being very careful, that’s all you can do.”
Croxall is dreaming for one more opportunity to pitch again in high school.
“There’s nothing more I’d rather do,” Croxall said.
Right now according to the schedule on MaxPreps, East Nicolaus would resume its season April 16 at home against Wheatland, beginning at 4 p.m. at Wahl Field.
Stinson said the team is missing anywhere from 12-15 games, which may get rescheduled depending on what happens with COVID-19.