ASA Stadium crew works overtime
Schneweis and team make sure WCWS field is playable
OKLAHOMA CITY -- During an evening of evacuations into downtown tunnels under Oklahoma City, one coach summed up the Women's College World Series: "If you haven't been evacuated from the stadium or the hotel, then you haven't been to the World Series."
Violent thunderstorms again rolled through parts of Oklahoma on Friday evening, dumping more than seven inches of rain and dropping a handful of tornadoes. Nine deaths resulted from the storms. Friday's play at the 2013 WCWS was postponed.
Ask anybody who left ASA Hall of Fame Stadium at about 11 p.m. local time Friday, any coach, player or fan if there would be college softball played in Oklahoma City on Saturday morning and they would have laughed.
Tracy Schneweis and his grounds crew, plus a boatload of volunteers, gave up their Saturday morning cartoons to make it so.
"This wasn't just me, it took a lot of people to pull together," said Schneweis, a native of Dodge City, Kan., who has been head groundskeeper for barely two weeks.
After four games were played Thursday, weather prognosticators made sure the state was aware of the possibility of severe storms Friday afternoon. On May 20, an F5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., killing 24 people.
The fields at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex were tarped at about 3 p.m. Friday as the wild Oklahoma weather amped up again.
"I was looking at the radar and there wasn't a thing, but in this part of the country you have to trust the weather guys because they usually know what they are talking about," Schneweis said. "Things got really colorful really quick."
After the first round of storms rolled through the area, a quick walk around the field left everyone confident that the games would go on. But as Schneweis was completing that stroll around the complex, a second round hit.
"It seemed like it was never going to stop raining, so I went home and tried to get a little sleep," he said. "I did not think we would be playing at 11 a.m. [local time]."
Before heading home, he stopped to help the drivers of two vehicles stuck in high waters near the stadium. Returning at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Schneweis was two men down.
"We had 14 guys scheduled to work the [WCWS], but a couple of them couldn't make it because they were dealing with things at their homes from the storms; they needed to be with their families, which is obviously the priority," Schneweis said. "The next thing I know there were about 30 people on the field helping out, volunteers out there at 6:30 in the morning. It was pretty impressive. It wasn't me, I wasn't calling people; they just started showing up to do whatever was necessary to get the field ready."
At 11 a.m. sharp, Tennessee's Ellen Renfroe threw the first pitch in a winners' bracket game against Washington. Two hours and 48 minutes later, Tory Lewis singled up the middle to knock in the winning run of a 1-0 victory for the Lady Volunteers. It finished a wild past 18 hours.
Fittingly, players and coaches told Lewis during her final at-bat that "everybody needed to be safe."
"This California girl was going crazy," Tennessee third basemen Raven Chavanne admitted. "Me and [California native] Madison [Shipman] weren't happy. It's hard not being able to see what is going on outside."
"Overall, I think our team did a good job of staying calm, took it very well," Lewis added.
Tennessee and other teams at the same downtown hotel evacuated to the tunnel system underneath the building as the storms approached the area. A group of American Hockey League fans in attendance next door at the Cox Convention Center for a playoff game also was among those in the tunnels and parking garage seeking safety.
"I think it was more about being nervous for our families who were not with us," said Renfroe, who had 10 strikeouts and picked up her second win in three days at the WCWS.