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Tech players going with flow

Abel Martinez looked forward to celebrating Senior Day on Tech’s baseball field.

But the three-year varsity member and his teammates won’t have that chance. Neither will the Roadrunners’ softball team.

The closest the two teams can get to their fields is peering at them over a fence.

The large athletic field at Tech, which includes fields for the school’s soccer and flag football teams, hasn’t been usable since the fall after school officials and the Clark County School District discovered large sinkholes on the property.

“I wanted to play my senior year here, but obviously that’s not going to happen,” Martinez said. “We’re trying to make the best of it. It’s pretty hard because all the seniors (at other schools) get to have Senior Night on their home field. We don’t get to do that.”

The irrigation system, which has been in place for more than 40 years, is causing the problem. The pipes have eroded, causing leaks that soften the ground, then wash away the dirt. While parts of the field still are solid, other areas could have sinkholes as deep as 6 to 8 feet.

“The district was coming out constantly, repairing a leak in the irrigation system, and a week later, another one would pop up,” said Bill Stuber, Tech’s baseball and flag football coach. “The good thing was they would start to form, and we could see the holes. Thank God no kids got hurt seriously. A few games last year, we had to fill in holes with dirt right before the game started.”

Risk management personnel from the CCSD declared the field unplayable in the fall.

A sign posted on a gate the baseball team would use while walking from the school to the field reads, “Fields Closed. Unsafe Conditions Exist. Do Not Enter.”

Fixing the issue will be costly. A school district spokesman said the initial “rough estimate” is $1 million, with no timetable for when work will begin.

“What I’ve heard is that they have to go 8 feet down and excavate everything, re-irrigate and basically rebuild baseball, softball and soccer fields,” softball coach Todd Herrick said.

Bleachers that were in use during soccer season sit in what should be the softball outfield.

The Roadrunners can’t play or practice on fields they can see from the door of their classrooms. Instead, baseball players are bused approximately 10 to 15 minutes away to Silver Bowl Park to use a field that isn’t exactly in mint condition.

Stuber said the field doesn’t have a bullpen area for pitchers to get their work done and doesn’t have electrical outlets to allow the team to use a pitching machine. As a result, he has had to extend practices by an hour and try to work around pitchers as they throw.

“It’s nowhere close to the fields the other high schools practice and play on,” said Stuber, whose team is off to a 5-2 start.

Practicing off-site also has hurt Tech’s participation numbers.

“Our practices are going longer, because we have to get more hitting in, without a batting cage,” Stuber said. “We lost about 12 kids from our intramurals program, and we barely had a junior varsity team.”

It’s also Tech’s home field for seven home games. The Roadrunners originally had more home games, but Stuber opted to move them to the opponents’ site to play on a better field.

“We see some administrators at our games. We see some parents,” Stuber said. “But the support from the students, and we used to get a lot out here, it’s not even there anymore. A lot of people don’t even know where it (Silver Bowl Park) is.”

Softball is even more nomadic, splitting practice time between the Russell Road Recreation Complex and Stephanie Lynn Craig Park.

The softball team is playing home games at Anthem Hills Park, which is 11 miles from Tech.

“One of our biggest things is just keeping track of which day it is and which field we’re on,” Herrick said. “Everyone has handled it well. The parents have rolled with it. The kids show up and do what we have to do.”

Stuber and Herrick used to store equipment in a shed adjacent to each field. Both coaches and their assistants now keep the equipment in their cars.

“We’re basically portable locker rooms,” Herrick said.

The field situation never was ideal. With the baseball home plate near the southwest corner of the property and the softball home plate in the northeast corner, the two fields shared a center-field fence. Center fielders had to be aware of fly balls coming at them from two directions.

The baseball outfield fence was taken down each summer to make room for a soccer field that uses parts of both outfields. The flag football team used much of the soccer field.

When the fields are rebuilt, softball will be moved beside baseball, and soccer will have its own field.

Soccer was the first sport to be disrupted, with coach Josh Jones’ boys and girls teams having to find a new home with six matches left in the regular season.

“We were fortunate that White Middle School allowed us to practice, and they had soccer balls and nets,” Jones said. “We had to move our games to McCarran Park and start them earlier because we had to be off the field by 5 p.m.”

Soccer players were dismissed from school early to make the five-mile trip to McCarran Park and play matches that began at 2 p.m.

With no firm plans on when work will begin on Tech’s field, the soccer teams probably will have to play and practice away from home next season.

Flag football played its home games at Green Valley High School.

“This has been a crazy year for us athletic-wise,” Stuber said. “Two straight seasons of having to take my teams somewhere else to play home games has been rough. This is the best team I’ve had since I got here. It’s a shame that we don’t get to play our games here.

“We’re trying not to use it as a crutch. We’re trying to be as successful as we can.”

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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