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Heidelberg's Joseph Patrick gets ready to connect during batting practice as the Lions got ready for their final baseball season in March. The Lions have had an irregular season, like most of the DODDS-Europe baseball teams due to wet and cold weather. The team has yet to play a complete doubleheader on the day it was originally scheduled.

Heidelberg's Joseph Patrick gets ready to connect during batting practice as the Lions got ready for their final baseball season in March. The Lions have had an irregular season, like most of the DODDS-Europe baseball teams due to wet and cold weather. The team has yet to play a complete doubleheader on the day it was originally scheduled. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Heidelberg's Joseph Patrick gets ready to connect during batting practice as the Lions got ready for their final baseball season in March. The Lions have had an irregular season, like most of the DODDS-Europe baseball teams due to wet and cold weather. The team has yet to play a complete doubleheader on the day it was originally scheduled.

Heidelberg's Joseph Patrick gets ready to connect during batting practice as the Lions got ready for their final baseball season in March. The Lions have had an irregular season, like most of the DODDS-Europe baseball teams due to wet and cold weather. The team has yet to play a complete doubleheader on the day it was originally scheduled. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Heidelberg's Bryce Jackson on his way to winning the 300-meter race at a meet in Wiesbaden, Germany, on April 27, 2013, in 43.36 seconds. The Lions had one track meet rained out, but the rest of their final season has taken place. They will host their final track meet on May 18.

Heidelberg's Bryce Jackson on his way to winning the 300-meter race at a meet in Wiesbaden, Germany, on April 27, 2013, in 43.36 seconds. The Lions had one track meet rained out, but the rest of their final season has taken place. They will host their final track meet on May 18. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

Heidelberg's Janell Moore won the shot put event at the track and field meet in Wiesbaden, Germany, on April 27, 2013, with a throw of 31 feet. The Lions had one track meet rained out, but the rest of their final season has taken place. They will host their final track meet on May 18.

Heidelberg's Janell Moore won the shot put event at the track and field meet in Wiesbaden, Germany, on April 27, 2013, with a throw of 31 feet. The Lions had one track meet rained out, but the rest of their final season has taken place. They will host their final track meet on May 18. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

For all its historic meaning and emotional heft, there’s been one thing largely missing from Heidelberg’s final baseball season: baseball games.

The relentlessly inclement weather that has plagued the bulk of the continent has been particularly hard on Heidelberg, to the point that the Lions have yet to play a complete doubleheader on the day it was originally scheduled. Seven weeks into the DODDS-Europe season, the Lions should have played eight games so far. Yet, entering the weekend, they are 3-1.

If possible, the cancellations and postponements have become an issue that rivals even the ultimate distraction — Heidelberg High School will close its doors at school year’s end.

“I think more than anything, we’re just looking forward to playing baseball, period,” Lions baseball coach Justin Bates said.

If weather cooperates, the Lions will finally begin to put together a coherent baseball season this weekend.

What baseball the Lions have played has been promising. They earned a split with Wiesbaden April 3 and routed Schweinfurt twice April 24. If momentum were possible in such a scattershot season, Heidelberg would be riding high on a three-game win streak. Instead, they’re ambling uncertainty into a formidable stretch run packed with tough opponents.

The Lions visit Ansbach Friday, then go to Vilseck Saturday. On Thursday, they’ll play their final regular-season road game on the Stuttgart campus of Division I champion Patch. The team’s May 18 doubleheader against Hohenfels is their last home games.

If those four doubleheaders occur as planned, that’s eight games in eight days, twice the number the Lions played over the preceding 50 days. In the meantime, when their field is playable, the Lions have subsisted on a sparse diet of protracted practice sessions and intrasquad scrimmages.

“The kids want to play a real game,” Bates said. “They’re dying to get out there and actually play.”

The same is true of the Lions’ other spring teams.

The Heidelberg softball team was swept by Wiesbaden on April 3, but fared better in an 18-14 late-game loss after dropping the opener 28-9. That’s the entirety of their body of work entering the weekend.

The team was a solid 8-8 in 2012, but returned just two players from that team for a 2013 version that is just 12 players deep and filled with freshmen and inexperienced players.

“We compete, and we’re having fun,” said Leslie Hogue, the Lions’ first-year head coach and athletic director. “We always do our best.”

On the track, the Lions were among the six German programs to pile into an April 3 makeup meet after most of the March 30 opening-weekend schedule was washed out. The girls were runner-up to reigning champion Patch on April 20 and the boys finished second to rising Wiesbaden on April 27. The group will visit Patch on Saturday and complete its regular season May 18 at home.

The Lions’ soccer teams have enjoyed the nearest approximation of a conventional season having played five games apiece. The boys are 5-0 with wins over Wiesbaden and Patch.

Reality has veered from the ideal script for the final days of one of DODDS-Europe’s most storied sports programs. But if this season has taught the athletes, coaches, administrators and supporters of Heidelberg athletics anything, it is to accept reality, however surreal.

“If it’s raining and thundering, what can you do?” Hogue said. “It’s our last year, so we have to do our best and enjoy it.”

broome.gregory@stripes.com Twitter: @broomestripes


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