Eau Claire (WQOW) -- Day one of high school baseball practice takes place indoors for area teams, and with feet of snow on the ground, those teams will likely be inside for the forseeable future.
At Eau Claire Memorial, head coach Dave Sparger and the Old Abes are in the gym, trying to maximize their time. It's not the same as being outdoors, but Sparger says there's still a lot you can get done.
"The best thing about being indoors is the situational and the teaching aspect of the game," Sparger says, "you can get a lot of teaching done indoors in a small area, you can get a lot of teaching done in a short amount of time, a lot more reps in a smaller area to make sure those kids get those reps in quicker."
"You can still work on little things," says Memorial senior pitcher Jake Sparger, "you can still take ground balls indoors, you can still hit in the cages, you just really have to take everything as game-like as you can."
"It's definitely frustrating with this weather," says Old Abes senior infielder Grant Peikert, "being blessed with such good weather last spring, being outside from the start, we're just trying to motivate the guys to work hard inside, still get our swings in, still throw."
Memorial is ranked 6th in the state Division 1 preseason coaches poll. The Old Abes open the season on Thursday, April 4, when they Milwaukee Riverside at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Eau Claire North is also indoors Monday evening. Huskies head coach Bob Johnson says while no one in the program is thrilled about the weather, there's still a lot of energy as the team gets a new season started.
"Take things slow and use the indoor time to teach," says Johnson, "break down mechanics, you know, little mini fields that help you teach your situations and your cuts and things like that, so you know, we'll just slow things down a little bit, and get a lot of teaching in so when we do get outside we're ready to go."
North senior outfielder Trey Boettcher says, "Team chemistry, basically, we have a lot of young players coming up, we have a few seniors, but what we're basically working on is team chemistry, and I feel that if we have the team chemistry we can go pretty far this year."
"Obviously, we can't stretch our arms out," says Huskies senior outfielder Ryan Connor, "because we just don't have the gym space, nor does anybody else, most of it's just working on a lot of it approach, a lot of mental stuff, a lot of fundamentals, drill work, stuff that can sometimes get lax when you get outside."
North is scheduled to open its season on Saturday, April 6, when the Huskies head to Superior.
Memorial won the BRC in 2012, and although the Old Abes graduated a lot of talent from that team, they expect to be in the race this time around.
"We're near the top," Jake Sparger says, "River Falls is going to be good, North is obviously going to be very good, they're returning a lot of players, so we'll see how the year plays out."
"The Big Rivers is definitely good this year," says Peikert, "North is returning a lot of players, top two pitchers, Hudson's always good, but I see ourselves at the top of the conference, hopefully."
Eau Claire North missed out on a share of the 2012 BRC title with a late-season loss to Memorial, but the Huskies are only two years removed from winning a WIAA state title, and the players that were a part of that team expect to be a factor in the Big Rivers this time around.
"We expect to be good again this year," says Connor,"live up to their reputation, but we honestly believe that we're going to be the better team in the conference but it's our job to go out there and work and take it, and not just expect it to be handed to us, because we want to make that deep run in the playoffs, and we want to go back to state again."
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