COLUMBUS — In January the Ohio High School Athletic Association approved a new, nationally-mandated pitch count regulation set forth by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
This new regulation sets a pitch count standard that replaces the old regulation in Ohio. The previous rule was that a high school pitcher could pitch up to 10 innings within a three-day span. Now, a pitcher may pitch up to 125 pitches in one day but with some stipulations attached to their count. The number of pitches thrown in a day determines how much rest must be provided to the hurler between game appearances.
If a pitcher throws 1-30 pitches during a contest, zero days of rest are required. If the pitcher reaches anywhere between 31-50 pitches, a one-day rest period is required. Between 51-75 pitches thrown will make a two-day rest period necessary and 76+ pitches thrown means that the pitcher must rest at least three days before their next appearance.
“I think the vast majority of high school coaches are very aware of overuse injuries and manage their ballplayers well,” said Galion varsity coach Phil Jackson. “Some players can handle more pitches per outing or per day than others. Some of the reasons may be muscle and body development or the development of proper throwing technique. The counts that Ohio has adopted are fairly liberal compared to other states”
“I think 80 percent of the coaches follow that rule anyway,” Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab said. “I think the rule is for the coaches who overuse or abuse a pitcher’s arm for the victory and do not appear worried about the future of that student athlete’s arm.”
If a pitcher’s team is scheduled to play in a doubleheader that day and throws more than 31 pitches in the first game, that particular pitcher is not allowed to pitch in the second game later.
If a pitch count maximum (125 pitches) is met during an at bat, the pitcher is allowed to exceed the pitch count but only to finish the dual with the current batter.
If a game is suspended or interrupted, due to weather or darkness for example, the pitches thrown in that contest will count towards this newly accepted regulation.
In the case of scrimmages or preview games, all pitches thrown in those particular contests also count towards the regulation.
Jackson said it will force some adaptations to long-time strategy.
“(We will) not be able to bring a pitcher back to close a later game a couple of days after he pitches, like we could before,”he said. “This could lead to the development of a “closer” role for many teams. It also could mean higher scoring games and late inning comebacks because with the earlier removal of the starters — usually the teams best pitchers — teams are more likely to rally against relievers, which are typically not quite as dominate as starters. Teams will likely have to carry one or two more players on their varsity roster in the event the first couple of pitchers struggle early in the game.”
Jackson says he expects a deep, and talented, pitching staff this year for the Tigers.
“This year I feel the Galion pitching staff is both talented and deep. We have a good mix of veterans and young arms to help us compete. With the new rule, a deep staff is more vital than ever and I like where we stand with that.”
Coaches are required to submit pitching data for all pitchers involved in the contest to a designated data collection system at the conclusion of the game. The data kept on all pitchers must also be made available to the OHSAA upon request.
If a player violates the pitch count regulation, victories will be forfeited.
“It won’t be much different from our standpoint,” Highland coach Don Kline said. “We’ve been very cognizant of player health for a long time, so it won’t be much of a difference. If anything, it gives credence to the philosophy of pounding the zone and taking pitches on offense.
“Overall, for strategy, it will force coaches to look at both sides and possibly take more pitches and see how the defense counters,” Kline said.
Rusty Staab, head baseball coach at Clear Fork High School, kept his offering on the change in regulation short.
The baseball season is right around the corner for area high school teams. Hours of conditioning have already been put in and soon the cleats shall be laced up and outfields around the state roamed. It appears that most coaches already keep an eye out for the overall safety and protection of a student athlete’s arm on the mound. Soon we shall see exactly the impact, if any, the new regulation has on the ebb and flow of the game.
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