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For Scots teams, spring break a time to get rolling

Barry McNamara
The Fighting Scots softball team gets loose before a game in Florida in 2017.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – College students always look forward to spring break, and that’s especially true for this year’s Monmouth College spring sports student-athletes. Because of the record-setting winter weather, it’s been next to impossible for the teams to practice outside.

Fortunately, four of the College’s spring teams are headed to a warmer climate during spring break – which begins at the conclusion of March 1 classes and runs through March 10 – to get their seasons on track.

Monmouth’s softball team is scheduled to play 12 games in Clermont, Fla., while the baseball team has a 10-game slate in Fort Pierce, Fla. The men’s tennis team will also be in the Sunshine State to play a pair of matches, and the men’s golf team travels to Arizona, where coach Cory Bizarri’s team will enjoy its first outdoor rounds of 2019.

“We expect to get a good week of work done in Arizona, and hit the ground running when we get back home,” said Bizarri, who’s in his third year at Monmouth.

Last year, the Fighting Scots baseball team won six of its final seven games in Florida, which turned out to be a springboard to a record-breaking season. The Scots set a new high with 29 victories on their way to a Midwest Conference title and an NCAA playoff berth.

“The games help by just getting outside, especially this year with what we have had to deal with,” said Alan Betourne, a former Scots first baseman who’s now entering his fourth season as head coach. “Baseball isn’t meant to be played indoors. We get to see the outfielders and infielders react to a ‘high sky’ and different kinds of surfaces.”

This year, the Scots’ 10 games in Florida are packed into a seven-day span, so Betourne will get to see a lot of arms on the mound.

“The trip gives us a chance to play around with our pitching rotation and bullpen – we get to test those guys,” he said. “After the week, we get to reevaluate and see what we did well and what we still need to work on. That allows us to plan out the rest of the year.”

Because coach Brian Jordan’s tennis team already has a few indoor matches under its belt, the Florida trip is less about setting a lineup and more about getting his players plenty of outdoor court time. The trip will also serve as intensive catch-up for a pair of freshmen who joined the team late after competing in swimming for the Scots: Nicholas Robertson of Covington, Ga., and Andrew Shie of Davenport, Iowa.

“Just getting on a true tennis surface for that period of time really helps us improve,” said Jordan, a former Scots tennis player now in his fifth season as head men’s coach. “Also, we get to focus solely on tennis, and the guys become a lot closer.”

Softball coach John Goddard said that closeness as a team is an important part of the spring break experience.

“Team chemistry is a large part of athletics,” said Goddard, who is entering his 12th season as Monmouth’s head coach. “Being together for a week in a strange location provides the women with the opportunity to get to know and rely on each other. Living four to a hotel room, they will learn about each other and how each reacts to competition and new adventures. The more they meet new challenges, as a team, the stronger the team chemistry bond becomes.”

The baseball team’s action in Florida gets underway March 2, when the Scots plays a doubleheader against Eastern Nazarene (Mass.) College. Scots softball opens March 3, also against Eastern Nazarene.