Valparaiso University freshman Easton Seib was on the team bus, heading to Missouri State University for a softball game against the Bears when cell phones started chiming like a bell choir.
“First, we heard that the Ivy League was ending its season,” said Seib, the 2018 Examiner Player of the Year who led Blue Springs South to its first softball state championship in school history.
“We’re like, ‘What? What’s going on?’ Then, we started checking our phones and found out that spring games and seasons were being canceled all over the country.”
Then Valparaiso softball coach Kate Stake told the bus to make a detour to her alma mater, Illinois State, where she addressed the team.
“Not only was the game against Missouri State canceled, our season was canceled – all the spring sports were canceled,” Seib said.
And Friday, Seib received an email from the university that the rest of the school year would be concluded via the internet as students would not be allowed to return to the campus in Valparaiso, Indiana, over concerns of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“This is scary – and frustrating – and like something from a movie,” said Seib, who is on the last day of a family vacation. “I’m a paranoid person anyway, and I’m worried about my four grandparents, my dad is immunocompromised and there’s all this talk of quarantines.
“We have to get on an airplane and head back to Blue Springs and I’m freaking out about that – being in an airport with all this going on, it’s like something from a movie, a really bad movie.”
Seib was off to a strong start to her college pitching career for the Crusaders. She was 3-2 with one save, a 2.16 earned run average, just six walks allowed and 23 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.
“We didn’t get to complete our season,” she said, “but I found out what college softball was all about, and that will help me the next four years. And we had such a great staff, I think we could have had a really successful season.”
The backbone of the state championship team – who served as a calming influence from the mound, at practice and away from the field – does see one small glimmer of hope during these trying times.
“It’s a challenge, a worldwide challenge,” she said, “but I think it is going to bring our country closer together. Look at my generation – go, go, go, go, go! We feel like we always have to be doing something.
“And now, it looks like we’re all going to have to slow down. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and friends. My dad is going to help me work out at home. He loves working with my pitching and I really enjoy working with him.
“And I think our friends and family members are going to mean more to us, and help us get through all this. I mean, I lost my freshman season of softball, but there are so many people who have lost relatives, are sick with the disease and there are all the doctors and nurses who deal with it on a daily basis.
“Heck, I’m a freshman and I’m going to have four more years. And in some ways, having this season taken away from our team makes me even more excited about next year.”
The NCAA is planning to add a year of eligibility for spring sports athletes to make up for the season lost to the coronavirus.
“All our seniors, who lost out on this season, will be given the opportunity to come back next year, but some have jobs and other things so I’m not sure who will be back,” Seib said. “But I know I’ll be back – and I can’t wait.”