THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: Weathering the storm as state softball tourneys near

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After another slow-starting spring high school sports season, which is unfortunately becoming the norm, the sun came out last week.

Some locals were caught off guard, sunburned in odd places.

This week, state softball tournaments in 5A (Post Falls High), 4A (Coeur d’Alene High, and Ramsey Park in Coeur d’Alene) and 3A (Ramsey Park) come to our area, with games scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

So naturally, the forecast calls for rain.

Of course.

IN ADDITION stocking up on kitty litter, tournament organizers are no doubt mulling contingency plans, in case of rain.

One plan is to move the games to another field in the area — one that either escaped the rain, or recovers faster from rain.

“Another consideration would be a single-elimination tournament,” said Coeur d’Alene High athletic director Mike Randles, who is running the 4A tournament. “Forecasts suggest that may be a realistic possibility for Saturday. Another possibility would be to move it to Sunday but forecasts suggest that the highest chance of rain is Friday, decreases late morning on Saturday through Saturday afternoon but then increases after that.”

Unfortunately, changes in sites and/or schedules are also becoming the norm, especially for state softball — though state baseball has also been affected at times.

Just a few that come to mind in softball in recent years ...

One year a rainstorm hit Post Falls High but missed Ramsey Park. So while the 4As finished unscathed at Ramsey, the 5As trooped up to Lake City High and finished there.

There was a year in 3A up here, where the winner of the semifinal was declared the state champion, when the rest of the tourney was unable to be completed by rain.

Three years ago, when state was in eastern Idaho, rains drenched the area so badly that, in 5A, the losers bracket was canceled. Unfortunately, that’s where Lake City was, after a loss and a win on the first day. The Timberwolves never got a chance to play their way back into the winners bracket — still a little bit of a sore spot for them. They just filed onto a bus and went home.

The four teams left in the winners bracket (Coeur d’Alene, Eagle, Rocky Mountain and Boise) relocated to Meridian for a Sunday morning semifinal showdown — Eagle edged Coeur d’Alene, then beat Rocky for the title. Coeur d’Alene beat Boise for third place.

Two years ago, when state was last up here, Saturday’s 5A games were rained out, and the tourney finished on Sunday for the second straight year — with Lake City losing to Eagle in the title game.

BUT AT least all the games in the tournament got played. It just took an extra day.

Hopefully that’s the case this year, no matter how long the tournaments take.

And no doubt tourney organizers will be keeping an eye on the skies, weighing their options if the clouds open up.

“A lot of possibilities that lead us to the same conclusion: wait and see,” Randles said.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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