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World Baseball Classic qualifiers postponed; Roadrunners, Sugar Skulls and FC Tucson seasons put on hold
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World Baseball Classic qualifiers postponed; Roadrunners, Sugar Skulls and FC Tucson seasons put on hold

From the Tucson-area coronavirus coverage from January to March: Nearly 1,300 cases in Arizona, stay-at-home order series

The World Baseball Classic qualifiers, scheduled for the next two weeks at Kino Stadium, were postponed Tuesday by Major League Baseball because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Tucson Roadrunners and Tucson Sugar Skulls also suspended their seasons until further notice, while FC Tucson postponed the start of its season by a minimum of two weeks. 

The WBC qualifiers were scheduled to start Thursday. Teams from France, Brazil, Germany, Nicaragua, Pakistan and South Africa were to have played through Tuesday, with the winner advancing to next year's World Baseball Classic. A second six-team tournament featuring The Philippines, Czech Republic, Spain, New Zealand, Panama and Great Britain was scheduled to start March 20. The qualifiers were canceled by Major League Baseball at the same time it announced it was canceling spring training games and postponing the start of the regular season by a minimum of two weeks. 

Reenie Ochoa, Pima County's stadium director, said local officials "had a feeling based upon the announcements from other sports organizations over the past 12 -24 hours that the World Baseball Classic would potentially follow."

"When the decision was announced to postpone the World Baseball Classic we of course were extremely disappointed, but completely understand the decisions that are being made in the interest of health and safety," she said. "The Kino Sports Complex staff and partners worked hard at the planning and preparation involved with this event, and are looking forward to its reschedule at some date in the future so that we may once again show the world stage how great Pima County and the City of Tucson are for hosting major sporting events.”

FC Tucson was scheduled to open its season March 28. USL League One's decision to postpone the start of the season will push it into April or later.

“Our team and staff remain committed to keeping Tucson strong during this time,” FC Tucson president Amanda Powers said. “We highly anticipate our return to the pitch to inspire hope with exciting, entertaining futbol for our beloved fans.”

The Indoor Football League, meanwhile, announced that Saturday's games in Oakland and San Diego will be played in front of no fans, and that it will suspend its season once those games are played. The Sugar Skulls were expected to open their season March 19; their preseason training camp is expected to continue.

“This is an unprecedented situation that we are taking very seriously,” IFL commissioner Todd Tryon said. “We are monitoring this on a constant basis and are working with the local municipalities and arenas in all of our markets. Our goal is to resume play as soon as possible. The health of our players, coaches, staff, fans, and sponsors is of utmost importance to our teams and to the league, and we will not compromise on those values.”

The Roadrunners, part of the minor-league American Hockey League, similarly cited concerns over the coronavirus. The parent Arizona Coyotes and the NHL did the same earlier Thursday.

The Roadrunners issued Thursday afternoon. It read, in part: "The Arizona Coyotes and Tucson Roadrunners will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the community to take all reasonable precautions – including self-quarantine, where appropriate. The NHL and AHL’s goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete both league’s seasons. We will be communicating to our business partners, season ticket holders and other affected parties with additional information soon. We thank our season ticket members, corporate partners and fans for their cooperation, patience and understand during this unprecedented time."

The Roadrunners drew 3,600 fans for Wednesday night's game at Tucson Arena, just after the NBA announced it was suspending its season. Players and coaches admitted to feeling conflicted given the news.

“It was an awkward start to the game — just the flash news that the NBA suspended their regular season for a period of time. That’s big news,” Tucson coach Jay Varady said postgame. “I thought that was strange (to see) before the game. It just created a little awkwardness.”

The Roadrunners lost 4-2 to San Diego, falling to 36-19-1-2 — still good enough for first place in the AHL Pacific Division.

Pima's NJCAA nationals appearance rescheduled

The NJCAA Women's Basketball Division II National Tournament has been moved to April 20. The games will be played in Port Huron, Michigan.

Pima has qualified for the tournament, which was originally scheduled for next week.

"We have two main objectives in this situation — first and foremost is to protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, college personnel and fans," NJCAA president Christopher Parker said. "Second is to make sure out student-athletes receive the national championship experience that they have worked so hard for."

Pima coach Todd Holthaus called it "obviously a different set of circumstances, but if we still get an opportunity to win a national championship, I'm all in. Like we have all season, we will adjust and overcome. "

AIA makes statement on coronavirus, schedules Monday meeting

The Arizona Interscholastic Association is deferring scheduling decisions on upcoming games and tournaments to individual schools and districts for the time being, with an executive board meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss next steps.

The AIA says it will respect any decisions made by member schools in regards to coronavirus-related concerns. The AIA said it will waive any fees associated with events that are canceled over coronavirus. 

The executive board and executive director David Hines will be reviewing information from the governor's office, the Maricopa Health Department and National Federation during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, the AIA's statement said.

Sabino's baseball program tweeted that its Friday game at Canyon del Oro is still on. 

Tucson-area coronavirus coverage from January to March: Nearly 1,300 cases in Arizona, stay-at-home order

Here's a look at stories surrounding local coronavirus coverage from January to March. This collection will continue to be updated. Read stories from April here. To see stories from May, click here.

See day-to-day brief updates, such as closures and other changes, here

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Mayor Regina Romero ordered the shuttering of "non-essential" businesses in Tucson — but only those that Gov. Doug Ducey said local governments can close. The number of known local deaths from COVID-19 on Friday rose to four.  

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