COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The Peach Belt Conference announced on Friday afternoon that the spring sports schedule has been cancelled for all of the league's schools, which means closing up shop at the Columbus State athletics program for the spring.
The diamonds will be silent in Cougar Country with only the timed sprinkler systems active at Ragsdale Field.
It's a rough deal for the softball team, who had won eight of their last night games including Thursday’s sweep of USC Aiken in what was supposed to be the conference-opening series, not the season-closing series. For the baseball team, it was a real blow. Greg Appleton’s crew was 18-3 and ranked eleventh in the nation, having the kind of season that means a chance at a national championship.
“We were having a very good year,” said Appleton, “and we were just starting to get into the really tough part of our schedule so we were about to find out how good we were and how special the season was going to be. It just kind of felt you got something taken away from you, but there’s nothing you can do.”
Bad as it was for the baseball team, it was twice as bad for tennis. The women’s team was ranked third in the nation while the men’s team was number one in the country as they chased their second national title in three years. It was tough to see it end, but they have one advantage no one else had – their victory at the National Indoor Tournament in Oklahoma City earlier in March.
“I’m grateful that we managed to win it, thinking now that it was the only championship that we played in this year,” senior Matei Avram said. “It was a pretty good result I would say. It’s just disappointing. We really wanted to play in May and compete at the highest levels again against the highest teams in the country. It’s tough, but at the same time we’re happy with what we accomplished.”
As disappointing as it is seeing their promising seasons come to an abrupt and unsatisfactory halt, nobody in any of the Cougar programs was disagreeing with the decision by the PBC to end the spring campaigns.
“We play teams from all over the country, and in Europe I know it’s a big deal,” Avram said. “People are taking the precautions and being cautious about it. It’s better to prevent it than being sorry about it after."
“It was a gut shot,” said Appleton, “and I’m disappointed and depressed about it, but I hope we’re sitting here in a month’s time going ‘Man, we could have played. Nothing really happened,' because that means that everybody’s healthy and nobody got sick. That would be great.”