UCO softball season moves on after cancelled season
Athletes at the University of Central Oklahoma have not played a game in any sport since March, when the NCAA canceled all Division II spring sports.
Additionally, the MIAA has postponed fall sports until the spring of 2021. Athletes have now gone more than six months without competition.
One of the last teams to play an actual live sporting event for UCO is the Bronchos softball team. Their last game was a 5-0 victory over Rogers State on March 7.
Athletes weren’t prepared for the season to end suddenly. “I remember crying in the back of the bus because I could not remember my last at-bat. I could not remember my last defensive play. I was heartbroken,” said Bronchos Senior outfielder Hazel Puempel.
Since then, the NCAA has allowed seniors another year of eligibility. Meaning seniors like Puempel can opt to return and get the ending to their collegiate careers they deserve.
Hazel Puempel says UCO has been able to practice as a team for the majority of the fall, and they’ve done well following COVID-19prevention protocol.
She said the team has increased their regulations and rules to prevent putting each other in danger. Puempel also said the softball team has bought into the new rules as a team and that they understand the responsibility they have to themselves and others.
The Bronchos have been able to practice this fall, but that wasn’t the case for the spring and summer.
“During that time, I was very lost. Due to the fact that we weren’t sure if we would be given another chance to play again, I was just heart broken. It was nice to go home and spend time with my family and loved ones (at a safe distance),” Puempel said.
“I was beginning to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to play softball anymore.”
However, Puempel did elect to return for another season. “Once I made the decision to return I was very excited to be able to be active. There were obstacles before I came back to campus though. I was injured toward the end of our season and I knew I needed to take the time to let my body heal,” Puempel added.
“I felt like I was in limbo, I was working out when I could and hitting once a week, but didn’t have access to a softball field. It was a strange time, I’m just happy to be back now.”
Being back on the field in some aspect has been a strange time for Puempel. “It’s been a strange mental transition for me. Even when we inner-squad scrimmage with each other I struggle with thinking this is real,” Puempel added.
She, like many other NCAA athletes around the country never pictured their final seasons being under these circumstances, but Puempel says she knows it’s out of her control.
“I have decided to not be so hard on myself. I have been playing the game of softball for a very long time, and since last year was taken away from me, I have learned to not take it for granted,” Puempel said.
The MIAA will make a decision on winter sports Oct. 1. No announcements have been made for the spring season at this time.