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Local coaches react to early spring

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

MA softball coach Lindsay Bliznik gives hitting instruction to a pair of Panthers during opening week practice. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
March 26, 2012
REGION – Athletes aren't the only ones basking in the nice early weather to the spring season, as local coaches having been outside with their teams working hard, a rarity for the month of March.

"Nobody wants to be stuck inside in the spring," said Winnisquam baseball coach Fred Caruso. "I can remember last year, we ended up with more practice days inside than outside by the end of the season which is amazing. We didn't get on a field until a couple days before our first game last year but this year, we have four scrimmages lined up."

The Bears got outside for the first time last Wednesday, the third day of tryouts. In his sixth season as varsity coach and many more involved with the program, Caruso can't recall a single time his team has participated in a tryout day on the field outside.

"Usually we're inside for the first week and we start to ease outside the second week," the coach explained. "And sometimes we get to go out on the outfield for a couple days before the rest of the field is ready. But I can't ever remember us getting four or five scrimmages before season starts, which is what we've got planned. The first week of weather was just unbelievable."

For teams like Lindsay Bliznik's Moultonboro Academy softball squad, getting outside earlier was that much more important. The third-year head coach has about a 50-50 split in returning and new players, meaning the more time outside, the better.

"We do have a strong core of senior leaders returning but when you're filling in the rest of your team, you want to see these kids taking bounces off the dirt and not the gym floor."

MA spent the first few days of practice last week working on fundamentals in the school's gym, but the Panthers made it out onto their crushed blue stone field last Thursday and embraced the warm, sunny weather.

"We're definitely a few steps ahead of last year so it's really nice just to get outside," said Bliznik. "The gym gets old really quickly. It can be hard to spice things up inside so the spring weather puts everybody in a good mood."

The extended outdoor practice has allowed Bliznik to work things in right from the start, instead of waiting until the final day or two before games begin as in past years.

"Being outside and not having to scramble right before the first game to go over baserunning and situational stuff is really nice," she said. "It's definitely an advantage getting out this year. Haven't had that before."

MA has two scrimmages lined up with Kennett and Winnisquam, and the Lady Panthers are scheduled to head to Cape Cod this weekend for a jamboree and three-day visit to the coastline.

"It really just has to do with us meshing as a team, a bonding experience," said Bliznik of the trip. "We play all day Saturday and the younger kids get a chance to see what it's all about with the older ones."

The Belmont High School baseball team was in high spirits last week, as the Red Raiders were out on Bryant Field in preparation for a busy preseason schedule leading up to their opener on April 9.

"It's definitely fun to be out there and get going," said BHS skipper Matt LeBlanc. "When you're in the gym, things get kind of monotonous. The walls seem like they're closing in after a couple weeks. So being outside now, you really get a sense of what you've got."

LeBlanc has also noticed the positive attitude surrounding the program, and the second-year varsity coach hopes that will be a constant throughout his team's season.

"Right now, the younger guys are following the older guys and everyone seems to be thriving," he said. "To be honest, we've never had a situation like this, being outside so early. Who knows what's going to happen when the first games start but hopefully getting to scrimmage and play some other teams at a jamboree will make sure we're still focused and ready to go by the time the first game comes around."

Mike Cryans
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