Not happy with the weather in Utah? Just wait a few minutes and it will change. The unpredictability is welcomed by some — but not by everybody, including Trent Pratt and Gordon Eakin. For them, the storm patterns this time of year bring a different meaning to March Madness.

Pratt’s BYU baseball team (11-12, 4-6) and Eakin’s softball squad (19-12, 3-7) have their hands full, both on the respective Larry H. Miller and Gail Miller fields and up in the sky. They are trying to beat Kansas, Houston and the weather at the same time.

Fortunately, they have seen this movie before. Protocols for changing game times quickly are well versed. In both cases, with storms moving in, both coaches check with the National Weather Service and even consult local expert Kevin Eubank of KSL-TV. Next is a phone call to the visiting coach to present the options.

Thursday’s scheduled night games were both moved up to the early afternoon in hopes of beating the first of several incoming storms. The decision happened so fast that television coverage was cancelled for both series openers because the student-laden crews were still in class.

Eakin’s softball bunch put Houston (20-13, 2-8) out in the cold early with a seven-run first inning, fueled by a three-run home run by Ole Miss transfer Keila Kamoku. The Cougars poured it on from there for an 11-3 win in five innings before the weather got nasty.

Pratt’s Cougars weren’t so fortunate.

Not only did Kansas pitcher Reese Dutton hold BYU batters to 0-for-17 with runners on base, the Jayhawks (13-10, 5-5) were red hot at the plate, scattering 14 hits in an 11-1 win. The game also featured pelting rain, body heat-stealing wind and a lightning delay — but they got it in.

With Saturday’s forecast looking ominous, the teams will turn Friday into a pair of doubleheaders. Softball will play at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on ESPN+. Baseball will start at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on ESPN+ and BYU Radio.

The Cougars and Jayhawks are trying to maneuver into the middle of the conference standings and with BYU and Houston trying to stay out of the softball cellar, these are games they must get in, if at all possible. The schedule moving forward doesn’t allow for many make-up dates.

Baseball’s dilemma is a bit more pressing because, unlike softball, where every team advances to the season-ending conference tournament, only 10 baseball squads get to go to Arlington, Texas, for the tourney that runs from May 21-25. Three are left home. Iowa State doesn’t play baseball.

Not only does Pratt’s program need to play the entire Kansas series, but the Cougars also need to win it. The schedule grows more daunting in the days ahead, beginning with three games at Texas next weekend.

Related
A tale of two headaches ahead of Cougars’ home opener

Cold baseball or softball isn’t fun for anyone — not the players, the coaches or the fans — including the diehard parents who will sit through anything to cheer on their kids. The weather is good for hot chocolate sales.

On Monday night, over the course of four hours and 10 minutes, Pratt’s Cougars hosted Utah Valley on a day that included snow, hail, rain, wind, sun and consistent cold temperatures. Pitchers for both teams combined for 20 walks, nine hit batters and six wild pitches in a 15-11 Wolverines victory.

“We’ve gotta play. We have to get these games in,” said Utah Valley coach Eddie Smith ahead of the BYU game. “We need to compete. You just bundle up and try to stay warm.”

This is the plight of cold-weather baseball and softball programs. Eventually the heat will come, but not this weekend.

Dan Fitzgerald brought his Jayhawks here from Lawrence, Kansas, where the weather on the plains can be equally testy. Just ask Dorothy. His ball club enjoyed warm temperatures throughout the first nine conference games until now.

“We’ve had it pretty good,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Kristin Vesely’s Houston softball squad played through good conditions while battling Texas, Iowa State and Kansas. The rocky mountain chill is especially unwelcome for her Cougars, who are batting BYU to stay out of last place. Houston’s baseball team played in Provo two weeks ago in cold weather and went 1-2.

Baseball’s synthetic field gives Pratt’s Cougars a better chance at weathering storms and getting the games in. Softball has a dirt infield and natural grass, where any good amount of rain/snow can wash their games away.

Friday’s forecast calls for cloudy skies, temperatures in the mid-40s with a 90% chance that it won’t rain until nightfall. Those are odds these teams are happy to play with.

It’s tough enough to be a coach, but all four will venture into Friday afternoon with one eye on the game and another on the weather. It’s March Madness of a different sort, but just as unpredictable.

Under gray skies, members of the BYU softball team take a knee to listen to their coach prior to game against Oklahoma State on March 23 in Provo. Gray skies and inclement weather are part of recipe of spring sports in Utah.
Under gray skies, members of the BYU softball team take a knee to listen to their coach prior to game against Oklahoma State on March 23 in Provo. Gray skies and inclement weather are what players sign up for when playing spring sports in Utah. | Aaron Cornia/BYU