PRINCETON — Princeton High School head baseball coach Austin Southcott is finally getting to spend time at Hunnicutt Field with some of the players he inherited when he took over the reins of the Tigers program for the 2020 season.

There still isn’t any literal baseball being played there, however. 

Southcott, a Tigers and Concord baseball player alumnus, has been putting his players through basic conditioning workouts at the idled Appalachian League ball park since last week.

The 2020 high school baseball season suffered the fate of all spring sports in West Virginia and neighboring Virginia: ultimately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new Tigers skipper was finally cleared to round up his returning players for their first approved conditioning-only sessions beginning on Monday, June 15, which was the second week of West Virginia’s Phase I transition to reopening from the statewide coronavirus shutdown.

“Right now, we are doing this conditioning stuff on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,”  said Southcott, who played on Princeton’s 2012 state championship baseball team under former head coach Josh Wilburn. 

“Last week we really only went once because the weather was awful. It rained all week and we could only be outside, so I think we only went literally one day last week,” he said.

The three-day-a-week sessions basically consist of agility and conditioning drills while maintaining social distance. He breaks the squad into two groups to keep the numbers under 10 players per group.

“One group will do an agility workout, like cone drills and stuff, and then we’ll do conditioning after that while the other group is out in the outfield doing some type of body workout. Then we’ll kind of flip-flop after 25 minutes of that because right now we can only go for an hour total,” Southcott said.

In Phase 1, players aren’t allowed to share equipment. There is no pitching and catching. There is no batting practice. There is nothing that would constitute activity in which a baseball team would normally engage.

“We’re not allowed to even touch a baseball right now,” he head coach said. “We’re only allowed to do non-sports specific activities. We can’t touch a ball. We can’t touch a bat. We’re not even supposed to touch a kid or be near one of them. It’s pretty strict right now. And it makes it tough, for sure.”

Southcott started helping the squad as an assistant coach under Wilburn in 2018, staying on as an assistant coach in 2019 under Josh Wyatt.  He was slated for his inaugural run with the Tigers this past spring and the season was set to open on March 18 at Hunnicutt Field versus Bluefield. However, on March 13 West Virginia State Superintendent W. Clayton Burch announced the first postponement of what eventually became a permanent closure of the season.

Princeton’s football program began outdoor workouts as soon as allowed when Phase 1 went into effect statewide. As far as Southcott knows, the football program and the baseball program are the only Tigers athletic programs working out at the Princeton campus.

“I’m sure soccer is probably trying to do stuff. I don’t communicate with all the other coaches. I do know us and football, for sure. Other than that, I couldn’t tell you about any of the other sports,” Southcott said.

Contact George Thwaites at gthwaites@bdtonline.com

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