MERIDIAN — Jacob Heaverlo took off and threw his helmet high in the air after crossing home plate.
The Centennial senior outfielder was understandably excited. He ran 180 feet from second base to score the winning run on a RBI double to center field by junior infielder Tyler Krueck in the bottom of the seventh inning in a 4-3 victory over reigning state champion Mountain View on Friday at Roger Wolf Field. It was the Patriots’ (3-0 overall, 3-0 5A Southern Idaho Conference) first win over the Mavericks (0-4, 0-4) in four years.
But it might be the final game of Heaverlo’s career. It might be the final game for a lot of other high school seniors across the state, for that matter, with the coronavirus now in Idaho.
“That’s in the back of our minds,” Heaverlo said. “But we want to focus on what we can control. That’s our big motto. Whether they suspend the whole season or suspend us till April or later in the season, we’re ready for what comes next.”
About an hour before the game, news broke that Idaho had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. It was revealed to be a woman in her 50s who lives in Ada County, according to Brandon Atkins with Central District Health. She had attended a conference in New York City in late February or early March. Other attendees were later determined to be infected. She has mild symptoms, no underlying health conditions and is self-isolating at home, Atkins said.
Both teams were aware of the reported COVID-19 case before first pitch. Centennial coach Brian Champion got the alert on his phone. Mountain View coach Matt Rasmussen was informed by Centennial principal Derek Bub.
“It seemed like it was inevitable that it was going to get here, so there wasn’t a whole lot of shock once we all found out,” Champion said. “But once we heard it was like, ‘OK, let’s play this one and leave it all out there.’ We wanted to make the most out of today and get after it and compete and we did that today. I’m really proud of them for being able to do that considering the circumstances.”
However, even with the news, the game Friday and the Treasure Valley’s other 17 games went on as regularly scheduled.
District officials with the Boise, Caldwell, Nampa and West Ada School Districts told the Idaho Press that games through the weekend will go on. They will hold meetings Monday to determine the next course of action. Idaho High School Activities Association Executive Director Ty Jones told the Idaho Press that the IHSAA will also hold meetings Monday.
The individual school districts are the ones that would make the call whether or not to postpone or cancel regular-season games. The IHSAA is only in charge of the state tournaments. It has already suspended the debate, cheer and dance state tournaments. The state debate tournament was set to get underway Friday at Boise High School.
The valley’s school districts have already canceled well-known tournaments like baseball’s Buck’s Bags Invitational and invoked out-of-state travel bands. Mountain View was supposed to go to the Greenway Festival in Phoenix. But it is now out approximately $16,000 in travel costs.
“That’s a bummer because that’s a big fundraising effort,” Rasmussen said. “It makes you think twice about putting time and energy into scheduling something like that again, because at the end of the day, we don’t know if we’ll get our money back.”
Friday’s game and other spring activities like golf, softball, tennis and track are the only sports still going on in the state. Boise State, College of Idaho, Northwest Nazarene and the Idaho Steelheads have all canceled their respective seasons.
“Sports are a big part of us and we’re like the last hope,” Heaverlo said.
But will that continue to happen with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Gem State?
The answer should come Monday.
The school districts will likely debate four options.
Stay the course.
Have games, tournaments and meets without fans.
Or worse case, cancellation.
“Gosh, I’m glad I don’t have to be in that meeting,” Rasmussen said. “People who get paid more than I do get to make those decisions. But they’re going to do what’s right for everybody.”
According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevents, COVID-19 has almost 137,000 cases and more than 5,000 deaths. Earlier Friday Governor Brad Little declared a state of emergency. But no K-12 schools have been closed as of yet.
“We feel that if the schools are open, that we should be able to go out there and play because you get more contact in the school than you do out there,” Heaverlo said. “It only seems fair for us to play.”
Centennial is off to its best start in at least six years and currently sits atop of the SIC standings. The Patriots, who haven’t been to state since 2011, also have 13 seniors on the roster.
“We don’t want this year to be a waste,” Krueck said. “We want to play this year and I think this team is really good and has a good shot at going to the state tourney and maybe a shot at the title. So it would be heartbreaking if we didn’t even get that opportunity.”