Slow-pitch softball an endangered species at St. Aloysius

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2002

[06/01/02]A lack of interest may force St. Aloysius to scrap a second straight season of slow-pitch softball and possibly the program, the school’s coach said.

Gene Rogillio said there weren’t enough girls interested in playing slow-pitch to field a varsity team in the fall, and St. Al athletic director Joe Graves said no schedule has been drawn up for the team.

With the next round of reclassifications by the Mississippi High School Activities Association on the horizon, it could be at least three more years before St. Al could field a team again, a situation that would likely end the school’s slow-pitch program for the foreseeable future.

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“Unless something changes, we won’t play slow-pitch next year. It’s not a definite, but it’s about as close to a maybe as you can get,” Rogillio said. “I just can’t get enough kids interested in it.”

St. Al has prospered in the spring fast-pitch season, advancing to the playoffs two straight seasons and making it to the South State championship series this year.

While students flock to fast-pitch, they’ve spurned slow-pitch. Lack of interest also forced St. Al to cancel its slow-pitch season in 2001. Rogillio said the lack of interest stemmed from other fall activities at the Class 1A school, such as cheerleading, a dance team and swimming.

“Rather than compete for bodies, this might be the best thing for the entire school,” Rogillio said.

Rogillio added that several students have expressed interest in playing, but not enough to field an experienced, competitive team.

“If I played, I’d have to play with a bunch of sixth-graders, seventh-graders and eighth-graders, and you’re not going to be competitive with that,” he said. “If I’m going to put a team out there, I want to at least be competitive.”

A final decision on the program probably won’t be made until next fall, when the MHSAA reclassifies its schools.

During reclassification, a questionnaire is sent out to each member school asking it to list which sports it will participate in for the next two years.

If a school doesn’t list a sport, it can’t participate in division play meaning the team is ineligible for the state playoffs for at least two years. If it does list a sport and then doesn’t field a team, the school is subject to a fine by the MHSAA.

Rogillio didn’t rule out the possibility of St. Al fielding a slow-pitch team in the future, but said if the decision is made not to list slow-pitch on the questionnaire, it would likely mean the end of the program.

With the rise of fast-pitch over the past few years, most coaches agree that slow-pitch is slowly being phased out across the state. More opportunities exist on the college level for fast-pitch players, so many choose to focus on that game instead of slow-pitch.

In Warren County, Porters Chapel has dropped its slow-pitch team to focus on fast-pitch, but the slow-pitch programs at Warren Central and Vicksburg are still going strong.

WC coach Lucy Young said she wasn’t sure how long slow-pitch would remain on the high school level, but felt that it still has a place and a purpose.

“In slow-pitch you can really work on your defense and fundamentals,” she said. “If you look at the numbers, there are still a lot more playing slow-pitch than playing fast-pitch.”