By Jim Bastian
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - Mother Nature's long winter may force spring sports like baseball and softball to play shorter games when the season starts.
Kevin Merkle, the Associate Director of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) recently sent an e-mail stating that because of the extremely poor spring weather, the MSHSL has contacted the National Federation and have received permission to adopt a rule that would allow schools to play either five or six-inning doubleheaders in baseball or softball.
Merkle stated that games shortened must be decided in advance by the competing schools and both teams must OK this.
The MSHSL has also Okayed the use of one umpire for games "because once games do start, there will be a lot of games played in a very short time and could lead to a shortage of umpires so we will allow baseball games to be played with one umpire. That was already the rule in softball. Non-registered officials may be used base umpires without obtaining a waiver from the MSHSL."
"I would certainly like to stick with seven-inning games," New Ulm High School baseball coach Jay Backer said. "And I think that most high school baseball coaches would. But I think that under the circumstances we have to look at situations where the safety of the kids' arms have to be considered. That has to be of the utmost importance."
Backer thinks that the shortened game could change some strategies.
"You may look at manufacturing runs earlier in the game," he said. "You may want to lay down a few more bunts in the first or second inning that you probably would have done in the fifth of sixth (inning)."
New Ulm Cathedral baseball coach Bob Weier is a strong proponent of playing seven-inning games even in doubleheaders on the varsity level.
"If I was at the other team's park, I would express my disagreement if he wanted to play two shortened games but I would have to follow his wishes at that point," Weier said. "Hopefully the visiting coach would be in agreement with my feeling to play seven inning games. Unless he would bring up a situation with the health of some of his players and I would reconsider."
MVL baseball coach Jeff Schoenherr prefers to play two seven-inning games.
"As the season goes along, it stays lighter longer each day so I do not see why we would have to switch," Schoenherr said. "Shorter games can affect the final stats at the end of the year."
Schoenherr would rather drop non-conference games than shorten games.
Kristi Andersen-Loose, softball coach at New Ulm High School, said that if her team had multiple doubleheaders in one week, "it would be something that I might consider but I am optimistic that we will not have as many postponements in the future. But I can understand this for baseball games because of the pitching. If I was a baseball coach I would consider the shortened games more than a softball coach."
Cathedral coach Bob Mertz agreed that this is more of a baseball issue than softball but wants to play seven inning games.
"I would rather play seven innings and I voted that way," he said. "Softball pitchers can throw two games easy in a day. This is a baseball issue."