Players excited to get back out on the field Saturday, Feb. 20
UPDATE: This story was published before the game was postponed due to severe weather conditions. The information has been updated.
Western Washington University’s 2021 sports season will kick off Saturday, Feb. 20, as the softball team faces the University of Puget Sound in a doubleheader.
The season was initially going to begin on Feb. 13 against Northwest University, but due to an incoming snowstorm, the games have been postponed.
Last season, from January to March, the softball team went 10-12 overall and 5-5 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, but the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic after a doubleheader versus Central Washington University on March 12, 2020. The team will have 12 returning starters this year, as they only lost three during the offseason, according to the Western athletics softball page.
As of Feb. 11, it has been 348 days since the last Western home game by any team, said Jeff Evans, Western’s director of athletic communications. Softball can return to competition because it is deemed low risk, Evans said.
This will be Western’s earliest home opener in softball history, Evans said.
Evans added that there will be no fans allowed at the game — if any show up they will be turned away. However, there will be a webcast on YouTube where people can watch from their devices.
“We’re just going to be hopeful that the planning and safety of everything goes forward,” Evans said.
One of the returning starters, first baseman Dakota Brooks, said the team is excited to get back and play real games.
“We’re really excited, but we’re trying to stay calm and collected,” Brooks said.
The team had abbreviated practice time due to the practice cancelation from Jan. 27 to Feb. 8. Despite that, Brooks said players have kept in shape by consistently practicing fielding, throwing and hitting with each other.
Sheryl Gilmore, Western’s head softball coach, echoed those sentiments and said the team has been able to safely put in work, and they are up for the challenge.
“We have a lot of great leadership within the team, and it’s been so fulfilling to see this group stick together and fight through the difficult times,” Gilmore said in an email to The Western Front.
Gilmore said she is proud of the way her team has adjusted to the COVID-19 landscape. They have stayed in a team bubble and go through strict protocols and testing, she said.
“Our team is so excited to face someone in a different jersey,” Gilmore said. “Even though things will look a little different around the field, we can get back to playing the game we love.”
On the field, they try and stay distanced by six feet even in the dugouts, Brooks said. This was hard for the team initially because they are a very “huggative” team, Brooks said. Now that they have had time to get used to the protocols, it has become routine, she said.
The team has endured many tribulations due to the uncertainty they have faced due to postponements of practice, but Brooks said the team is trying to stay focused on the game.
“No matter who shows up on the other side of you, we’re just out there trying to have fun, trying to play relaxed,” Brooks said.