WYE MILLS — Canceled.
That’s the notation on the Chesapeake College website for every scheduled softball and baseball game for the rest of the season.
For 11 student-athletes on the Skipjacks’ softball team and 30 on the baseball team, the chance to play and learn together and grow friendships came to an abrupt end on Friday, victimized by Covid-19.
Among the baseball players are former Mid-Shore high school standouts, Easton’s Ryan Farr and Colonel Richardson’s Garrett Nepert, Ty Scott, and Remington Mangum. Among the softball players are Brea Bishop and Mackenzie Werner of North Caroline, Leann Asplen of North Dorchester, Jozie Wilson of St. Michaels, and Melyn Rhodes, Mary Becraft, and Kelly Cavanagh of Queen Anne’s.
According to a statement released by Chesapeake College on Friday, “All athletic events and activities are suspended for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.”
“Suspended” isn’t really the correct word there. The right word is cancelled.
Chesapeake’s statement about athletics was preceded by these statements:
“We were informed by state medical authorities yesterday that community spread of the virus is most likely occurring now in our region, although we have only just begun testing.
“As one of the largest employers on the Eastern Shore it is imperative for us to take aggressive action to protect our students, our employees and their families to mitigate the spread of this disease within our community.”
In addition to canceling the athletic seasons, Chesapeake’s Wye Mills and Cambridge locations are closed to the public at least through March 29, and all college-hosted and college-sponsored events, on or off-campus, are canceled through at least April 30.
Commencement events will not occur on-campus on May 20 and a virtual ceremony is being considered.
The Skipacks baseball team was off to a fine start with a 9-2 record and ranked 13th nationally in Division II of the NJCAA.
“I’m a little disappointed, but you know the health and safety of our student-athletes is our number one priority, Chesapeake athletic director and head baseball coach Frank Syzmanski said in a telephone interview on Friday. “We definitely had to take those steps to protect them and their families.
“Our softball team is currently competing in Florida. Today was their last game. We had to make arrangements for them to come back to Chesapeake tomorrow instead of next week for their spring trip. So we had to get them back to town. We told our baseball team yesterday that we were going to suspend the season until further notice, but most likely it would be suspended indefinitely. We just gave them a heads up that most likely they need to prepare for studying with all their classes online and really getting their stuff out of the building so we could close and clean.”
Syzmanski described his players’ reactions as “mixed emotions.”
“There was a lot of sadness, some anger,” he said. “But we’ve kind of been talking about this virus for maybe two weeks, two-and-a-half weeks, just talking about how it’s effecting other people, how to prevent it, and also the guys were obviously aware of what was happening nationally with the NBA and Major League Baseball and the NCAA.”
Syzmanski said he was a part of the decision-making process along with vice president for student success and enrollment management Kamari Collins and president Dr. Cliff Coppersmith.
“We got the news today,” said Nepert on the phone Friday. “We were all pretty devastated, off to a pretty good start, 9-2, 13th in the nation. Kind of felt like all of our work was kind of just gone, but we all understood, everybody else is in the same boat as us. It wasn’t just us. School is doing what they have to do to keep everyone safe, which honestly we all respect. But, it’s pretty disappointing.”
On the bright side, student-athletes who participated in spring sports will retain an extra year of eligibility, according to the NCAA’s Council Coordination Committee.
That works out well for Nepert, who plans to graduate from Chesapeake and take his talents to Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania next season. Now, he’ll be eligible to play for three years instead of just two for the Bald Eagles.
“I’m going to graduate. I’m on track for that, then I’m going to be moving on,” he said. “I know most of the guys are going to be coming back (to Chesapeake) because we have a lot of freshmen, looking to get back at it next year. It’s just unfortunate I won’t be there.”
The season cancellation doesn’t work out well for Bishop, who said her student-athlete playing days are over. On the phone from Florida on Friday, she said she plans to graduate this spring and attend dental school.
“The whole team’s pretty disappointed,” she said. “We only played four games so far this season, and we didn’t get a lot of practice time on the field either. We were in the gym for most of the time. We played hard for the four games that we played and tried our best and just made the most of it while we could.”