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High school baseball and softball

After year in dry dock, Vinalhaven Vikings eager to set sail

Islanders finished 2019-20 basketball season, but have not played interscholastic sports since due to pandemic
By Mark Haskell | Mar 31, 2021
Courtesy of: Vinalhaven High School

Vinalhaven — It has been more than a full calendar year — 406 days to be exact — since a team from Vinalhaven School participated in preparation for official varsity athletic competition.

And for islanders on Tuesday, March 30, the sun shone, birds sang and the long wait was over as the Viking high school baseball and softball teams held their first practices of the spring.

“It’s been a year, and the kids can’t wait,” said VHS athletic director Sandy Nelson. “They’re so excited.”

The islanders have not played in an official Maine Principals' Association-sanctioned event since Feb. 17 of 2020, losing out on the spring season of 2020 and fall and winter seasons of 2020-21 due to the pandemic.

The first official return to interscholastic action for the Vikings will be on Monday, April 26, when the baseball squad hosts Forest Hills of Jackman in a doubleheader, and the softball team plays at Forest Hills in a twinbill. The games will be at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Student-athletes must continue to wear face masks and social distance as much as possible. Dugouts also will be extended to accomplish this.

Spectators will be allowed to attend events at 75 percent capacity for outdoor events. Those percentages will increase to 100 percent on May 24.

The last official game a Vinalhaven athletic team participated in was during the 2019-20 season, a Class D South boys quarterfinal playoff contest at the Augusta Civic Center on Monday, Feb. 17.

In that contest, the No. 7 Vikings gave No. 2 Rangeley all it could handle before falling 53-46.

Weeks later, the MPA made the decision to cancel the 2020 spring sports season due to COVID-19.

After a long summer of debate at the state level about the best way to handle the fall sports season, Vinalhaven made the decision to opt out of that season as well on Monday, Sept. 7. The did the same this winter, announcing its intention to not participate in MPA-sanctioned games on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Vinalhaven, one of the smallest schools by enrollment, with about 50, in the state’s smallest class (D), has only baseball and softball in the spring, soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter.

The reasoning behind those decisions were twofold.

Not only does an island community with limited resources and no hospitals have more obstacles to combat in terms of potentially dealing with those infected with COVID-19, but the regulations at the Maine State Ferry Terminal made traveling as a team nearly impossible.

“We were only allowed to put five people in a cabin,” Nelson said. “We couldn’t go anywhere. But now the percentages are up. And the head of the ferry [terminal] said to let us know when teams are coming or going and they’ll just designate a cabin for us.”

The island baseball team will play eight games — two each against Richmond, Rangeley, Valley of Bingham and Forest Hills, while the softball team will play 10 games, including two against Temple Academy of Waterville.

In the meantime, Nelson can get back to worrying about traditional, springtime athletic concerns. Such as the conditions of the island's fields.

“We didn’t get a lot of snow out here this winter,” she said. “So our field is drying up pretty good. Plus we’ve got all this nice wind.”

The baseball team will be coached this season by Tom Anthony, while the softball team will be led by co-coaches Brooke Lebel and Amber Hufsey. That duo replaces Doug Littlefield, who had previously coached the Vikings 10 seasons.

Nelson said she had not heard, at this point, from neighboring North Haven Community School regarding if Hawk student-athletes will join the Viking baseball and softball teams.

North Haven often has players on the Vinalhaven soccer and baseball/softball teams. The neighboring and rival island schools maintain their own basketball squads.

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