Baseball season ends due to COVID-19

Wesley O’Neill, Ponca City senior, watching the pitcher as he prepares to bat for the RiverHawks. O’Neill is a senior and is still undecided about whether he will come back next year to play his last season or not.

The RiverHawks’ baseball season has come to an end as the COVID-19 virus has spread across the nation. On March 12, the NCAA decided to suspend all collegiate spring sports indefinitely. The RiverHawks had played 21 games before the cancelation. Their record was 9-12 overall and 3-4 in conference. During their first conference game, they beat Northwest Missouri 8-6 at home. The last game played was against Newman on the day of the cancelation. It was the first of a three-game series, and they lost 5-6. A total of 30 games were canceled, 26 of which were in the MIAA conference. Jaxon Phipps, Nacona, Texas senior, said their record at the beginning of the season did not represent how they were playing. He said they had improved during the games, and they were playing well as a team.

“We were feeling confident during conference play,” said Phipps. “We were excited to make some noise in the conference tournament.”

He said the team is still adamant about the next year, and they want to stay focused on their current goals to carry them into the next season.

Many seniors were excited about their last season as a RiverHawk but were disappointed that they may not have the opportunity to finish their baseball career. The student-athletes that play a spring sport have been offered another year of eligibility by the MIAA. For seniors, this is a tough decision whether to take the offer and play for another year or finish their career early and start the next stage of their lives. Nolan Sturgeon, Broken Arrow senior, already planned for his future and will not be taking his extra year of eligibility.

“I have already applied for the 67th Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy,” said Sturgeon. “After graduation, I will be going through the hiring process for that if I am accepted, so I will not be using the extra eligibility year.”

Other players do not know what they plan on doing next year, but they have already prepared for this season to be their last. Phipps said he has started to look for jobs, and if he receives an offer from somewhere, it would be hard for him to turn down because for another year of baseball.

“I am not sure what my future holds,” said Phipps. “I spent last summer and the fall preparing for this to be my last season on the field, and I have started the job search and have had a couple of interviews already. It may be hard to turn those down if the opportunities arise.”

Phipps said he is going to trust the process of what is to come. He plans on finishing this semester by focusing on his schoolwork and keeping himself in shape, physically and mentally.

The team is heartbroken about their season ending prematurely. They were looking forward to making strides in their careers and spending their last few months on the field with their teammates. Wesley O’Neill, Ponca City senior, is disappointed that the season had to end early, but he understands the concern of the NCAA. He believes the cancelation of spring sports was necessary to prevent the spreading of the virus and to keep the student-athletes’ risk of contracting the virus as low as possible.

“Canceling the season was very disappointing for our team,” said O’Neill. “The seniors only got to play a third of their last season as a RiverHawk. These are games that we will never get back. But with the pandemic spreading like it is, we understand that it is necessary to keep the teams from coming in contact with each other so there is less of a chance that the virus will spread from team to team.”

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