EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — The East Peoria Raiders will go a long way to play their first softball game of the season.

The team left Wednesday for Tennessee to play five games this week. That’s after the team endured three cold and wet weeks of practice in central Illinois.

“They are ready to go,” said East Peoria head coach Denee Menzione. “They are tired of getting stuck inside. They are excited, there’s a different energy this week.”

And there’s a new addition to East Peoria’s program that might help with those “inside practice.” EastSide Center turned out of it’s dirt softball fields into one with turf.

That turfed field could be available for the Raiders to play games this season.

“(Monday) we came out here and the three dirt fields were under water from the weekend snow,” said Menzione. “But we were able to (practice). So I can only imagine if that were to happen on a game day that we could stay on schedule, play our game and enjoying being outside.”

The city of East Peoria operates EastSide Centre so that turfed field may not always be available to the high school softball team so the Raiders aren’t sure how many games they might play there.

But the players just know in a cold, wet month when their playing field is under water, it’s nice to have a place to practice outside.

“We’ve been inside the past week, getting (batting practice),” said sophomore secondbaseman Keearrah Brown. “Being able to come out here and get into situations and have the opportunity to feel like we’re playing and scrimmaging is completely different.”

Players acknowledge there is a difference between playing on their dirt and grass playing field and this turfed practice field. But they are glad to have them both.

“It helps us,” senior outfielder Kaylynn Crotz said of the turf. “We can do more defensive stuff. Inside we can’t do much in the outfield. It helps us see more clearly and be more-defensive ready.”