Starting with March snow and followed by April showers, baseball has been a difficult game to play this spring.
But as the NJCAA enters the postseason, hope blossoms for the the teams playing in this weekend's six-team sectional. At stake is a spot in the NJCAA Region IV championship series May 17-19, and ultimately a berth in the NJCAA World Series in Tyler, Texas.
The sectional tournament is comprised of five North Central Community College Conference members plus Illinois Skyway Conference member Waubonsee Community College.
As the tournament's top seed, Waubonsee earned the right to be one of two host sites. The Chiefs have a history of success in the postseason, having won the 2010 Region IV championship. College of DuPage and Milwaukee will be hosted by Waubonsee.
Second-seeded Harper (16-20) is the other sectional host -- but there's a catch. The school is renovating its baseball facility so can't have games played at the school. Instead, the Harper games in the sectional will be played at Joliet Junior College. The Wolves (24-23) are the No. 3 seed.
"Not playing on our field for the sectionals was a small tradeoff for a overall better facility," said Harper athletic director Doug Spiwak via e-mail. Spiwak said the renovations had been scheduled for much earlier, in the fall.
After Joliet plays fourth-seeded Rock Valley College in the tournament opener at 10 a.m. Saturday, the Wolves meet Harper in Saturday's second game at 1 p.m.
Harper is then scheduled for a 4 p.m. game against Rock Valley. The double-elimination format will also require at least one game Sunday.
The Hawks haven't won since splitting a doubleheader against Milwaukee Area Technical College (7-24-1) on May 4. Though they have dropped their last three games, coach Cliff Brown is not worried about his team's play as of late.
"(We are) playing fairly decent at the right time," he said.
Harper is led by five members of the N4C all-conference team -- Chris Bobo (P), Kevin Robinson (C/1B, Conant), Andrew Skinner (OF), Theo Yfantis (IF, Wheeling) and Cory Kay (St. Viator, OF).
"Theo has done a great job in the leadoff spot," Brown said.
And, according to Brown, Kurt Becker (Palatine) has been hitting near .400 over the last 10 games.
Despite his team's success at the plate, Brown realizes that, "In the playoffs anything can happen. It's a matter of getting the right hit at the right time."
Postseason games will be 9 innings, instead of the 7-inning doubleheaders teams have played in conference games. Brown believes his pitching staff will be fine inspite of the extra workload.
"Most of our starting pitchers have been used to going 7," he said.
Left-hander Lee Breitzman (Fremd) will get the call in the opener, and Chris Bobo would start the third game on Sunday.
"If we pitch it, hit it and throw it," said Brown, "you have a chance to win."