COLUMBUS — High school baseball coaches will be keeping an eye on pitch counts this fall and will need to be ready to go to the bullpen.
Details for a nationally-mandated pitch count restriction in high school baseball were approved last week by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Board of Directors at its January meeting. Last year, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) informed all states that they were required to have a pitch count limit instead of a regulation based on innings pitched over a certain number of days. Previously in Ohio high school baseball, a pitcher could pitch up to 10 innings in a three-day span. Each state was tasked with determining its own regulation.
The new OHSAA pitch count regulation calls for a maximum of 125 pitches permitted in a day, and contains several other details such as the number of days required between pitching appearances based on the number of pitches thrown. The regulation approved Thursday replaces OHSAA baseball regulation 1.7, which was approved last year and indicated that details for the pitch count regulation would be finalized in January.
“Our initial goal was to meet the requirement of the NFHS rule that now requires individual states to create their own pitch count limitations,” said Assistant Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass, who is the baseball administrator for the OHSAA. “After assembling a group representing the necessary stakeholders, including a member of our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, we have met that goal. We continue to look at further ways in which these limitations will affect teams as well as providing adequate education for our coaches and those in non-school baseball.”
Local high school baseball coaches knew changes were coming and now must find a way to work within a different set of rules.
Madison-Plains High School varsity coach Zach Durban said the rules aren’t terribly different but said they will require someone to keep an eye on it to make sure they’re not doing anything wrong.
“I felt like the 10 innings every three days rule that had been in effect was a solid rule,” Durban said. “At first, I was concerned that our state would adopt a more restrictive rule. That has been evident in many other states. I’m glad that the OHSAA compiled a multi-faceted committee and took their time to come to the new rule regarding a pitch count.
“Without going back and actually looking at our scorebooks and pitch charts, I can only think of one or two instances in the past three seasons where the new rule might have changed how we managed our pitchers. I don’t foresee the new rule changing too much for us this year.”
Durban is of the belief that most high school coaches have a plan that includes taking care of their pitchers. His includes developing a collection of players capable of contributing quality innings, while also being able to play their primary positions.
“We’ve taken pride in always having a short and long term pitching rotation that includes relievers,” the Madison-Plains High School coach said. “We have always based this off of innings of work, health of the player and arm and body maintenance. This new rule will simply add additional numbers to track that help coaches manage their players. I feel that good high school coaches have always managed their pitchers with some sort of inning or pitch count in mind to prevent arm issues and extend the effectiveness of their pitchers.”
For a school like Madison-Plains which usually plays other schools of equal size, finding enough pitchers will continue to be a struggle. A problem less likely to happen at a bigger school.
“Without a doubt teams with deeper pitching options will benefit with the new rule,” Durban said. “Typical high school teams will have two or three solid starting pitchers that will start, at most, twice a week. The rest of a team’s pitching staff will consist of position players who are relief pitchers. This is where I see teams having to grow new pitchers in order to avoid rule infractions. A team may have one or two primary relief pitchers. When weather backs us up to six or seven games in six days, there will be a challenge to find kids who are available by the rule and who can actually throw strikes.”
There’s a chance there will be an increase in the number of runs scored in high school games going forward, especially until those lesser experienced pitchers can gain confidence.
“Most everyone we play will be in the same boat,” Durban said. “A strike is still a strike this year, but some new pitchers may struggle to become successful due to inexperience on the mound. I expect to see runs and scores in games go up because of the rule. It’s hard to play defense against walks and wild pitches.”
2017 OHSAA Baseball Pitch Count Regulation
Daily Pitch Limit: 125 pitches
Number of Days Between Pitching Appearances After Pitching:
1-30 Pitches: 0 days
31-50 Pitches: 1 day
51-75 Pitches: 2 days
76 or More Pitches: 3 days
Doubleheader Note: If a pitcher throws at least 31 pitches in a game, he may not pitch in another game that day (or the next day, per the chart above).
At Bat Completion: If the daily pitch count is reached during an at bat, a pitcher may exceed the pitch count only to finish pitching to the current batter.
Data Collection System: At the end of each contest, coaches must submit pitcher data to a designated data collection system. Schools are required to keep pitch count data on all pitchers and make the data available to the OHSAA upon request.
Regulation Violation: A team shall forfeit any victorious contest in which a player violates the pitch count regulation.
Suspended/Interrupted Games: All pitches thrown during a game that becomes suspended or interrupted (due to weather or darkness, for example) shall count toward the pitch count regulation.
Scrimmages and Previews: All pitches thrown in a scrimmage or preview shall count toward the pitch count regulation.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.