McGovern’s Maine West High School team traveled to Highland Park Senior High School earlier this spring for a 4:45 p.m. game. The trip from school to school is about 18 miles, or 30 minutes, and some of McGovern’s players didn’t get out of their last class until 3:15 p.m.
This is a common scenario in prep softball: With stadium lights uncommon, teams are forced to prepare for games on the fly. Throw in some unusual or unexpected weather, and suddenly you’re in a bind.
McGovern offered three points to consider if you find yourself in a similar situation.
Assess the Environment
This might be the most critical point, because it sets the framework for the process. Especially in a city like Chicago, where spring weather can be unpredictable, coaches need to be prepared for anything.
“You never know conditions,” McGovern said.
Highland Park was a new venue for McGovern, so when the Warriors arrived, he took note of his surroundings. At the junior varsity field, he found that the wind was blowing out. However, it was the opposite at the varsity field. Wind gusts of 20 miles per hour blew right into the park. So when his players took the diamond, the temperatures in the 40s felt more like the 30s, and any hopes of sneaking a weak home run over the fence instantly disappeared.
Once the Warriors assessed the field, the temperature and the direction of the wind, McGovern knew his game plan was shot. He quickly began making changes. The focus would now be on hitting the ball low and hard, getting on base and being aggressive on the base paths.
“When you hit the ball up in a (windy environment), it is hard for the ball to go anywhere,” McGovern said. “We try to hit the ball on the ground and keep it down. You play the short game and see what happens from there.”
McGovern advised his players to look for low pitches and aim to take an early lead.
“No matter what conditions we have, we always want to have a scorer,” he said. “You can do more things when you have the lead. You can steal and take more risks. Aggressiveness can’t be all out all the time.”
McGovern’s plan worked flawlessly. The ground hits led to a high on-base percentage. After a couple of runs his team could take more chances in trying to put the game away with aggressive base stealing. This resulted in a 6-0 lead in the first inning, and the Warriors eventually won 10-0 after five innings.
From GameChanger and Hunter Tickel.