BLANCHARDVILLE — In an already shortened Home Talent Baseball League season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blanchardville Bullets are pulling the plug with five games to go.
The league first postponed the start of the season from May to July, then ultimately canceled sponsorship before the scheduled opening day weekend of games July 4. Teams were allowed to play others at their own risk, and many clubs in the southwestern division did just that.
The spread of the virus had steered clear of Blanchardville and other local teams much of the season, but a breakout after an ATV event at the end of July has affected several businesses and people in the region. According to Bullets manager Larry Schliem, the combination of the spread connected to the ATV event and the diagnosis of a girlfriend of one of the players in a separate case led the team to shutter its season early.
“We’re all pretty healthy,” Schliem said. “We thought it would be very respectful to keep people from coming into town with what is going on.”
In the morning of Aug. 6, it was confirmed that a player’s girlfriend, who works in the medical industry in Madison, had come down with the virus. The team said in a Facebook post that while the players would love to keep playing, the health and safety of the players, fans and baseball community was more important that playing the final five exhibition games of the season.
Blanchardville had two Thursday Night League games remaining on the schedule — Aug. 6 at Hollandale and Aug. 13 at Albany against Belleville. The team also canceled three Sunday League games: Aug. 8 vs. Reedsburg; Aug. 9 vs. Pine Bluff at Mount Horeb and Aug. 16 at Albany in another game against Belleville.
“We’ve been talking about it for a while now,” Schliem said. “We probably pushed our luck all summer. I think it was good for all of us to be able to give some people something to do on the weekend.”
Schliem said the Babe Ruth teenage team would probably also either pause or cancel its remaining games.
Colton Schraepfer, a 2019 Pecatonica graduate, already lost much of his freshman season at UW-La Crosse when the NCAA pulled the plug on the spring sports season right as COVID-19 hit the nation.
“It is what it is, I guess,” said Schraepfer, who played shortstop and batted at the top of the order for the Bullets this summer. “I was able to play quite a few games, so I’m very pleased with how much ball I was able to get in this summer.”
Schraepfer said there is a possibility he could play with a Northwoods League team over the final few weeks of the summer. His UW-La Crosse head coach, Chris Schwarz, asked him if he was interested in playing in the elite summer college-level league. Schraepfer said he hasn’t heard which team he could be playing for, but the La Crosse Loggers and Green Bay Booyah are possible destinations. The Northwoods League has 22 teams playing this summer — the Madison Mallards are not — and is scheduled to play until Aug. 20.
“Hopefully I’ll get to play a few more games this summer, but for now I’m excited to get back to La Crosse this fall and play, hopefully,” Schraepfer said.