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Area softball teams play catch virtually



East Lake's McKenzie Feeney

With the Center for Disease Control recommending limited gatherings of 10 people, area high school softball programs could not practice or even warm up in a group setting. 

So they did the next best thing by setting up a virtual game of catch.

Last week, Canterbury spliced together video footage of each player tossing a softball to a teammate. They were not stuck at home. They were safe there. It was social distancing at its best. 

Three days after that video went out on social media, East Lake did one of their own. They were in their kitchens, living rooms, garages, some even headed to the beach,

Shelby Wright, a junior, came up with the idea. Teammates were taped cooking, reading or watching siblings when a softball suddenly appeared from the side of the screen. They each caught the ball then tossed to someone else.  

East Lake's Shelby Wright
East Lake’s Shelby Wright

Others resorted to physical activity to stay in shape and maintain cohesiveness. The Windermere Wildfire Paulson 18-under, a travel softball team that includes a few area players, started a jump rope challenge. George Paulson, the program’s founder, wanted his players to jump rope two minutes a day for 15 straight days. The challenge was set to end on April 15, the initial date students were scheduled to return to classrooms. The Florida Department of Education has since extended school closings until May 1. 

Those not taking part in team challenges have been working out on their own.

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No more fans at Pasco County sporting events after COVID spike



Stock football stadium

Pasco County has decided to limit all athletic activities to students and coaches due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

That means no fans or media members in attendance. 

The new rule starts on Monday and will last until the positivity rate, which has climbed to nine percent, drops to below five percent for a rolling seven-day period. 

In the past two weeks, two county football teams — Wiregrass Ranch and Fivay — had to forfeit playoff games because of a player testing positive for coronavirus and multiple team members and coaches having to quarantine due to contact tracing. 

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COVID case ends Osceola’s volleyball season



Osceola, which made the Class 5A region finals in volleyball last season, had to forfeit Monday’s district quarterfinal match because its entire junior varsity and varsity teams are quarantining after a player tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 25, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said.  

By forfeiting, the Warriors ended their season. They were ranked fifth in the state in Class 5A and were expected to go on another deep playoff run.

“We have to follow what the health officials tell us,” Bennett said. “It’s tough because Osceola is one of our best volleyball teams in the county. I talked to the Florida High School Athletic Association and they said there were plenty of other teams around the state in the same situation.”

Under CDC and Pinellas County health department guidelines, any student athlete who tests positive must be quarantined, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15-minute duration without any face covering. Osceola’s quarantine ends on Oct. 19, a week after the district tournament.. 

All the players have currently tested negative, including the one who was originally positive. But the quarantine did not end. The Warriors also had to postpone their appearance in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. That title game against St. Petersburg will be made up once the Green Devils’ season ends. 

“It’s heartbreaking for the seniors to have their season end this way, but we’re really excited for the chance to play the PCAC Final at home for senior night as our last match of the season, against our toughest competition, St Petersburg,” Osceola coach Ashley Martin said.”It will feel like a state championship since a trophy is involved.”    

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PHU cancels season opener after a football player tests positive for coronavirus



Palm Harbor University’s season opener against rival East Lake this Friday has been cancelled after a Hurricanes player tested positive for coronavirus, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett confirmed in a text message.

It was unclear how many PHU players are currently under quarantine. According to CDC and county health department guidelines, a player who tests positive must quarantine, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15 minute duration with a face covering.

The Hurricanes next game is scheduled for Sept. 17 at Wharton. Bennett said the school is looking into moving that game to Saturday or Monday to avoid another cancellation.

The Eagles will now host Sarasota Riverview in Friday’s opener.

This is the fourth area football program that had to cancel its season opener after having a player test positive for the virus.

Hillsborough and Jefferson, which were supposed to play on Friday, both have players under quarantine. Their opponents, Chamberlain and Gaither, are now kicking off the regular season against each other.

Zephyrhills is in a similar situation and had to cancel its first two games.

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