Each UNA baseball pitcher's "dugout routine" is marked on the wall of the dugout. Bryant Claunch, a senior who came to UNA from Florence High, has eight bullet points on his list.
Claunch sits in the same spot each time he enters the dugout after pitching. On his way to the mound, he jogs out of the dugout and then slows to a walk at the foul line. He cleans the bottom and top of the mound before he starts to throw.
But Claunch won’t do any of that the rest of the spring. As long as the coronavirus pandemic lasts, routine is over.
The gameday itinerary on the dugout wall still shows the plan for March 10, when the Lions played what they never imagined would be their final game of the year against Murray State.
UNA was set to play Bowling Green in a weekend series starting March 13. By the end of that Friday, with the American sports schedule crumbling, baseball season was officially over.
“All of a sudden in like two or three days it’s like you go from doing everything to nothing,” Claunch said. “I don’t think we’ve still processed it really.”
UNA was in its second season of Division I competition, and the first few weeks were tough. UNA was 3-13 when the season was called off, but Claunch was the anchor of the bullpen after leading the 2019 staff with a 3.26 ERA as a junior.
Claunch is studying exercise science and is set to graduate in August assuming he can complete his physical therapy internship with Peak Performance.
He is open to the idea of picking up a second major in a related subject that would make him eligible to play baseball one more year.
But though the NCAA has suggested it is open to giving seniors in spring sports an extra year of eligibility, there are unanswered questions about rosters, scholarships and more.
“At this point, it’s kind of 50/50,” Claunch said about the chance of returning to play.
He wants to have all the information he needs to make his decision and coach Mike Keehn is still waiting to hear more about how everything would work for returning seniors.
“He’s going to let us know as soon as he does know. I don’t think anybody’s got any idea when that will be done, as of right now at least,” Claunch said.
In the meantime, Claunch completes work for his three online classes (two of which started as in-person classes until UNA moved them online) and tries to find other things to do.
“I’ll go try and run with a friend or two, try and work out. If I can’t find somewhere, I’ll just do something at home,” he said. “It’s just kind of trying to stay busy all the time, not trying to get too bored sitting there doing nothing.”
Claunch’s family lives in Florence so he’s staying with them, but most of the Lions have left town. They stay in touch through group text messages or playing video games such as Call of Duty. Claunch acknowledged he’s getting more sleep than he would otherwise. But this is not the way Claunch or any of his teammates drew up senior year.
Whether he returns to the team next spring or moves on, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted his routine well beyond where to set his glove after each inning or how he cleans the mound.
Like the rest of us, Claunch is still figuring out what’s next.
“You gotta just adjust, I guess,” he said.