After the initial postponement to their first game of the season, Northwest softball will have to wait a few days longer.
The Bearcats were supposed to take the field Feb. 21 against Missouri S&T in Rolla, Missouri — it would have been the team’s first game played in 350 days.
Due to extremely cold temperatures, that game is canceled.
Since the team’s last game March 8, 2020, a 14-6 win over Illinois-Springfield, the Bearcats have been sidelined due to COVID-19 and the weather, waiting for the day they can play again.
The Bearcats are now planning to start their season Feb. 26 against Southwest Baptist as part of the Drury Invitational in Springfield, Missouri. They're scheduled to play four total games during the two-day event.
“I think they were ready to play about the second week of January,” coach Ryan Anderson said. “They’re excited to play, and you can tell we’re ready to play. It’s been so long that we’re at the point where we need to.”
The Bearcats return three seniors: outfielder Regan Kirby, pitcher Ashleigh Creek and returning fifth-year senior infielder Kaitlyn Weis. Other than those three veterans, the Bearcats are relatively young with 17 underclassmen on the roster.
“I came back for my family, my teammates and myself,” Weis said. “I felt like I wasn’t ready to leave that part of my life. I probably would have if I would have finished that last part of the season.”
Weis is taking advantage of the NCAA’s eligibility extension, and she returns as the program’s all-time leader in home runs, runs batted in, total bases and slugging percentage. She provides a steady and powerful bat in a lineup that Anderson is confident in.
“We’re gonna come out and hit the ball,” Anderson said. “Even though we’re a young team, we have a ton of people back; we’re not worried about the experience side. We’re comfortable with our team.”
With COVID-19 hitting the players, the team had erratic practices throughout the fall and didn’t have a full team practice until November, leaving the Bearcats behind where they would’ve liked to be.
“A lot of other teams are experiencing it too. We last played in March,” Anderson said.
“We didn’t play any games in the fall. We don’t know if this kid can handle second base, if this kid can handle right field or if this kid can handle third base. It’s been a lot of catch up. We know what’s going on now, but we were just behind.”
With forecasts predicting more extremely frigid temperatures in Missouri this weekend, it's safe to say that the games will be played in the cold, something Anderson said affects everyone.
“You can’t practice for it right now, everybody’s stuck this way,” Anderson said. “When it’s 25 degrees and you get wind out there, it's rough. That’s gonna be a deciding factor. If there happens to be a breeze blowing, it's gonna hit both sides pretty hard.”
The Bearcats look to move past both the harsh weather and COVID-19 into the season, where Weis mentioned that the bats will need to be more consistent than in previous seasons.
“We’ve had some struggles in the past couple years finding ways to get girls in,” Weis said. “Getting our hitting streak going, we always feel like we don’t find our hitting streak right on time.”
Without playing for nearly an entire calendar year, the team is excited and ready to take the field.
“We’re just excited to see another team and just excited to compete against another team and show them what we’ve worked so hard for this last semester,” Weis said. “We’re ready to prove to the whole conference and to ourselves that we belong with everybody, and we deserve to be winning and doing our thing.”