Scorching softball team enters COVID-19 pause

Pitcher Machaila Arjavich receives a high-five.

The Castleton University softball team entered a coronavirus-related pause on March 31 after two positive COVID tests. The pause cancels four games and stops a high-rolling Spartan team that is undefeated at 4-0.

The Spartans opened their season with a pair of Little East Conference doubleheaders, travelling to UMass Dartmouth, winning 6-3 and 4-3 respectively. They then hosted Western Connecticut and triumphed 6-5 and 6-4.

“We’ve gotten off to a good start on the field,” said head coach Eric Ramey on March 30, right before the pause was announced. “I know how competitive the conference is. I’m not going to say I’m surprised [about the 4-0 start], because I know what our kids are made of. We got a bunch of kids that show up and play ball. We don’t get too high and we don’t get too low. We compete every pitch,” Ramey said.

According to junior catcher Jamie Boyle, the screeching halt of the 4-0 train has not negatively affected team morale.

“The morale is actually stronger than ever. Having a pause after starting 4-0 is tough, but we are all super excited to get back at it,” she said. “I think this pause just goes to show us that like last year, anything can happen and we are truly lucky to be playing…We know we can’t take it for granted.”

Boyle was confident that the pause would not be extended.

“We will be playing our first game back next Friday at UMass Dartmouth,” she said.

She said the team is permitted to practice outdoors only, while the two players who turned in positive tests for COVID-19 remain quarantined.

But practicing outside during Vermont’s legendary fifth season, mud, is not always easy and precarious field conditions have been known to keep teams in the gym in the past.

Senior outfielder Devin Millerick explained how valuable outdoor practice is and why dry weather is necessary before the start of the season when practice was still inside due to wet grounds.

“Inside is very difficult. There is only so much you can do working on your defense … Ground balls are so different when they hit on the gym floor versus in the dirt, it bounces a lot more on the basketball court,” she said.

Ramey pointed out that other teams in the LEC have experienced on-field errors he believes are related to not being able to get outside.

“I think other teams have also struggled with lack of outdoor time, so we’ve capitalized on other teams’ errors at key times,” Ramey said.

Under guidelines of the COVID pause, indoor practice is not an option during the pause period, so Mother Nature will decide whether the Spartans can practice or not.

A source familiar with the situation said that the two players who tested positive were not experiencing major symptoms.

“They’re doing well. Both are very excited to get through the coming weeks and be out of isolation,” the source said.

Ramey spoke very candidly about COVID-19 just a day before the pause was initiated. The 2016 North Atlantic Conference championship coach said it was virtually impossible to totally avoid COVID due to player roles at the university outside of the team.

“We’ve got kids with in-person classes, we’ve got kids that are doing nursing clinicals, other players in student-teaching positions. We just have to do the best we can and control the situations and circumstances we have control over,” he said.

If the pause ends on time as expected, the Spartans will travel to back to UMass Dartmouth for another doubleheader with the presently 0-7-1 Corsairs with the first game starting at 2 p.m. and the second at 4 p.m.

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