High school hurlers, diamond coaches must adapt to new pitch-count ruleTeams need to develop handful of additional pitchers to help with change
Augusta — With high school baseball players — notably pitchers — in the early stages of throwing programs, those student-athletes set to toe the rubber will be forced to adapt to a change in the rule book, one made official by the Maine Principals’ Association in November.
Starting this spring, pitchers will be on a pitch limit — as opposed to an innings limit — which has been the norm in the Pine Tree State for years.
The change came about due to the National Federation of State High School Associations baseball rules committee changing its policy for all state associations under its jurisdiction — including the MPA — to establish pitch limits prior to the start of the 2017 season.
Now, instead of innings pitched dictating how many days rest hurlers must have between appearances, thrown pitches will be the barometer.
The new rules for high school varsity pitchers is as follows: 1-20 pitches thrown, no days rest; 21-39 pitches, one day rest; 40-65 pitches, two days rest; 66-95 pitches, three days rest; and 96-110 pitches, four days rest.
Pitchers can no longer throw more than 110 pitches in a game. The only instance that threshold can be be crossed is if a pitcher reaches his 110th pitch during an at-bat. In that case, the pitcher can finish pitching to that batter before being removed from the game.
Junior varsity has similar restrictions with hurlers allowed to throw no more than 90 pitches in a game.
The rule change fixes a longtime flaw in varsity baseball, when a player would have to rest several days after perhaps not throwing many pitches.
For example, a relief pitcher could relieve a starting pitcher in the third inning and throw one pitch in that frame, throw two nine-pitch innings in the fourth and fifth and one pitch in the sixth prior to being removed.
In that instance, under the old rule, a pitcher would have to rest for three days — after throwing only 20 pitches.
While that instance is not the norm, it is a scenario high school coaches have had to prepare for in years past — but no longer.
“I like the [new] rule,” said Oceanside coach Don Shields. “I looked back and we only went over 120 [pitches] twice last year and I tried hard to keep Nick [Mazurek] and Logan [Sheridan] right around 110-120 pitches, so it is not going to be a big change for us.”
“I personally don’t like it,” said Searsport coach John Frye. “I just think every coach and every player is different. Some kids can throw more than others.
It is not a surprising stance for Frye to take as the Vikings are the two-time defending state Class D champions. During the 2015 season Searsport’s ace pitcher Troy Reynolds helped guide the Vikings to the state crown and went eight innings and 117 pitches in the state final against Stearns of Millinocket.
“Troy Reynolds could throw 110 pitches or more, but Kyle Moore, who was as good as Troy, could only go about 60 pitches and he’d be done,” said Frye. “I think coaches know what their kids can do and I think most coaches would never put a pitcher out there if he’s tired or can’t go any farther.”
Frye added he thinks it will be extremely detrimental to smaller schools that might not have as many pitchers prepared or available.
“We don’t have four or five guys that can pitch,” he said. “And to go to the pitch count and you’ve got three games a week like we’re going to have — Monday-Wednesday-Friday almost every week — you’re going to need to have five or six pitchers. And there just aren’t that many arms and kids that can really throw.”
While Shields coaches for a Class B school in Oceanside, he agrees that coaches will have to attempt to strengthen their respective bullpens going forward in an effort to adapt to the new rule.
“The change that we and every coach will have to make is developing two-three relievers and trusting them to throw strikes and go get outs,” said Shields. “Trust me, most teams might lose a game or two in the first half of the season making this adjustment, but they will win those same games down the stretch based on confidence to throw strikes.”
High school squads will begin their respective regular seasons in mid-April, but preseason practices in the gymnasiums around the state have begun.
None of these baseball pitching changes affect softball, which has different set of rules.
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School. He has won multiple Maine Press Association awards for writing and photography.
Mark loves the Boston Red Sox, iced coffee, cargo shorts and time with friends and family.
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.
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