Sawatzke: Springing straight into excitement

For all the misery of this year’s delayed spring, including but not limited to me spending way too much time staring at my computer screen and refreshing the  10-day forecast on my phone’s Weather Channel app every ten minutes, there are some benefits that are set to come from the lengthy winter.
Namely, a crazy, awesome, action-packed spring season.
And as if everything the high school sports schedule will have to offer over the next month plus isn’t enough, there is also the NBA Playoffs, the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the heating up of the Major League Baseball schedule.
Lastly, there is oh so much to enjoy outside, as we’re able to enjoy sunshine and outdoor activities (without six to seven layers) for the first time in half a year.
So, where do we start? Well first let’s just pause for a moment to remember just how happy we are that these activities are finally able to start. (Pauses, looks up from outdoor writing location, smiles). OK, now let’s begin with some things to watch for in the most compact Magic spring sports season that’s ever been.
Magic baseball enters this year, and pretty much every year, with conference championship aspirations. It’s been a while since the program actually secured that championship, but being consistently on the doorstep has kept them believing the next year is always going to be the year.
Mix ace Jake Kounkel with a deep supporting pitching staff, add in a lineup relatively heavy with returners, and sprinkle in a defense that is relatively experienced, especially up the middle, and there are plenty of reasons to believe this year will be the year.
But what makes this year even more exciting and interesting than most? Just how quickly that conference championship will be decided. As the Magic try to squeeze in 19 games (nearly a full season) in just over 4 weeks (less than a month!), they’ve rescheduled four out of five Mississippi 8 matchups as doubleheaders. That means, the conference championship will be decided over the course of just six separate days. Any off day, any doubleheader sweep against, will make a conference championship next to impossible for the Magic. In what has become a small conference this year, you can rarely afford losses in any sport, but this baseball season promises to be as extreme of an example as any.
The biggest day to watch will be Thursday, May 9, as the Magic play a split location doubleheader with the defending conference champion St. Michael-Albertville Knights. A sweep in either direction in that series would likely go a long ways in deciding this year’s conference champion.
The sport most affected by this year’s delayed spring seems to be golf. This isn’t a “good thing” for anyone, as every golfer (and person) has wanted to be outside playing for the last month. They’re all missing out on the fun of golf season, and they’ve already had a couple of meets that were canceled and won’t be rescheduled. But for the Lady Magic golf team, there could be one benefit to this shortened season.
With many teams lacking in practice time before they jump in to meets this week, this season should benefit experienced teams. The Magic have just that.
They return two two-time all-conference winners (Maree Smith and Amber Eckstein), a one-time all conference winner (Erin Swendson), and two others that have been important contributors in the past (Christine Lui and Anne Dockendorf). The Magic have all the ingredients to end Buffalo’s nine-year reign on top of the conference, and in less than a month, we’ll find out if the recipe is right.
There is certainly more to watch than just baseball and golf though. There will be weeknights with five Magic teams playing at home. There will be nights with multiple doubleheaders. There will even be weekends full of action. Sport to sport, the story lines are going to be fascinating. The action is going to be fast and furious.
And just in case that’s not enough, the NBA and NHL playoffs are getting underway at the same time.
It’s hard for me to talk about the NBA playoffs without talking about Steph Curry. And it’s hard for me to not think about Steph Curry without ending up in tears over what could have been had the Timberwolves not passed on the Davidson star to instead take Johnny Flynn in the 2009 draft. But hey, Flynn had (and hopefully still has) a great smile. Even if he is already out of the league that Curry is dominating. But anyway.
As for puck action, the Wild are finally back in the playoffs. While they certainly have the talent to compete, they may not have the draw to do so. Minnesota faces off with a Chicago team that was by far the most dominant in the entire NHL throughout the regular season, which included putting together a record-setting point streak during the first half of the year.
Either way, it’s always fun to take on the best, and the Wild have earned that opportunity. And even if they get eliminated, you have to continue to watch. It’s the State of Hockey, and those are the rules. Or so my fiancée tells me.
The bottom line is, no matter what your interests (unless your interests lie completely outside of athletics and you’re just reading this because you’re my Mom), there is going to be a smorgasbord of action these next few weeks.
Sit back, or, better yet, go out and watch it. Enjoy the action and bask in the sun. After putting up with the winter we did, we’ve certainly earned the entertainment the next month promises to bring.

Contact Clay Sawatzke at clay.sawatzke@ecm-inc.com

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