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Hartselle’s Andrew Rittman pitches in a game earlier this season. Special to the Enquirer/ Mariann Parker

Coronavirus postpones high school sports

High school sports will be taking a two and a half week hiatus to deal with the impact of the coronavirus.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement Friday of a statewide emergency, which included closing all Alabama public schools for two and a half weeks starting March 18, has put the local prep sports scene on hold during that time as well.

Changes are happening quickly in response to the threat of COVID-19, making it impossible to say with certainty when prep sports will resume after the break and how the hiatus in play will affect the postseason.

Teams were allowed to compete through Wednesday as long as their district remained open.

Hartselle City Schools and Morgan County Schools closed Tuesday, thus starting their hiatus after games played Monday.

As of March 18, “all athletic events including, but not limited to, contests, practices, weightlifting and conditioning are hereby suspended at this time,” according to the AHSAA.

The AHSAA will reevaluate health conditions and determine the status of spring sports championship play at the end of the closure period.

Hartselle softball coach Christy Ferguson said the closing will affect two regular-season games along with the team’s annual beach tournament trip.

“We are going to take the time and get healthy,” said Ferguson. “The girls are going to work out individually to stay ready to play.”

Typically, teams must play a minimum number of games to qualify for the postseason, but the AHSAA is working on a contingency plan for teams that can’t reach the minimum number. AHSAA officials have also said teams whose districts prevented travel would not be required to forfeit.

The AHSAA has not said if the state tournament will be pushed back. The association likes to complete the state tournaments while school is in session, “but these are different circumstances,” according to the AHSAA.

Falkville softball coach Meaghan Gray said, “Our girls are very worried the season will be canceled. They have worked so hard in the hopes of competing in the state championship. That is a goal these girls have had for three years, and they have been working hard toward that goal.”

“I don’t know what to expect as far as the season goes,” said Priceville softball coach Matthew Morris. “We are taking it one day at a time and doing what we can because there’s not much else we can do. We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.”

Even before school was canceled, the AHSAA recognized the uncertainty about the rest of the season could make it tough for players to focus.

“Our seniors have a lot of questions about what this closure means,” said Danville softball coach Lori Bailey. “They are worried their senior year could come to an end without playing another game.”

“The news came out before we started, but we remained focused enough for a 3-0 win,” said Priceville baseball coach Preston Potter. “I tried to play as many guys as I could, considering we didn’t know if or when we’d play again. I think with all the uncertainty of what is to come, none of us really know how to act or feel. I am hopeful for resuming in a couple of weeks, but it’s very possible the season is over.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.