Teams deal with blustery conditions at Suplizio Field
South Georgia College didn’t exactly blow away the Jefferson (Mo.) College Vikings on Sunday. The windy conditions, however, played a big part in the Tigers’ elimination-game victory.
Teams had to deal with unusually blustery conditions on the second day of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series at Suplizio Field. Wind gusts of up to 47 mph, according to the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, created a constant nuisance for teams throughout the day.
Although coaches and players wouldn’t blame the elements for any part of Sunday’s outcomes, some readily admitted it played a part in plays that were, and weren’t, made.
“It was tough,” South Georgia coach Scott Sims said after the Tigers’ 10-4 victory in the first elimination game of the day. “We caught most of them and we were lucky enough that they fell into our gloves. I guess someone was looking out for us.
“I finally told our right fielder (Roderick Franklin) that if we got a six-run lead that if they hit them over his head, more power to them. His thing was to try to keep the ball in front of him.”
At 4:53 p.m. Sunday, the weather service reported the wind was a constant 28 mph, with gusts reaching 47 mph.
Flags throughout the stadium were whipped by the wind all day.
The light posts around the stadium swayed back and forth, bunting along the third-base foul line flipped over the railing and waved toward fans, who braved the gusts all afternoon.
Debris tumbled through the outfield through the first two games and the wind kicked up enough dust the block the view of Grand Mesa, Mt. Garfield and the Bookcliffs from the stadium.
Any ball hit in the air became an adventure. Wind would turn high, hard-hit balls to right field into routine popups and soft liners into base hits that dropped in front of outfielders.
Tanner Rainey of Seward County (Kan.) was the beneficiary of some wind-aided fun in his team’s elimination game against Southern Union (Ala.) State Community College. The wind hooked his high popup in the third inning toward the left-field corner, where it banged off the foul pole for a home run.
As third-base umpire Glenn Ballangao signaled the home run, play continued in the infield. Rainey slid into second base, thinking the ball was in play, but Ballangao came over and told Rainey to start jogging around the bases. Rainey stumbled going around first base, went back to the bag, and then took off for second when he saw the ball on the field.
“I thought it hit off the wall, not off the foul pole,” said Rainey, the Saints’ center fielder who said his team has played in similar weather with 40 to 50 mph winds over the course of the season. “That’s when I came back to first, but I was glad when I found out I hit it out.”
On defense, players had to get creative with their communication. With the wind whipping, the players couldn’t hear each other call for the ball. Rainey said constant yelling and extra hand signals were key to making plays and, at times, avoiding collisions in the outfield.
South Georgia shortstop Logan Gaines hit a towering drive down the left-field line in the first game of the day, easily clearing the fence, but it was blown foul by five feet.
In the eighth inning, he had to zig-zag to catch a popup by Kyle Leslie. After diving to make the play, he got to his feet, grinning.
“On offense, I knew I just had to put the bat on the ball and see what the wind would do with it,” Gaines said. “It’s been a while since we played in conditions like this before, but we remembered how to handle it.”
Teams might have to handle it more today. Forecasts call for a 40 percent chance of rain with wind gusts reaching 35 mph.