JACKSON TWP. Starting this season, high school pitchers in Ohio will be on the counter.
Not the clock, mind you, but a pitch count. The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s board of directors approved new pitch count rules for baseball at its January meeting. The decision came in response to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) announcement last year that all states must have a pitch count limit instead of a regulation based on innings pitched over a certain number of days.
Ohio’s previous rule was that a pitcher could throw 10 innings over a span of three days, but the new rules mandate specific days of rest depending on the number of pitches thrown.
The rules are:
• 1-30 Pitches: 0 days of rest
• 31-50 Pitches: 1 day of rest
• 51-75 Pitches: 2 days of rest
• 76 or More Pitches: 3 days of rest
Jackson head coach Bill Gamble, who has guided his team to a state title and multiple deep postseason runs in the past five years, believes that the new rules will impact specific parts of the game.
“The weather, the schedule, league games … they’ll all factor in and I think you’ll see that effect and it doesn’t matter whether it’s game one, game two or game 29 or 30, no matter where you are in the season, you’re going to have to develop the back end of your bullpen,” Gamble said.
Adjusting to the new rules will take time, but Gamble noted that it will be interesting to see if coaches begin to coach against the rule rather than coaching in step with game situations and against their opponent. In other words, will coaches who have a pitcher at the 30-pitch mark take that pitcher out of the game to avoid having to give him the mandated one day of rest, or leave him in?
Doubleheaders will also be a factor, as a pitcher who throws 31 or more pitches in a game can’t be used the rest of the day if his team has another game that same day. The new OHSAA pitch count regulation also for a maximum of 125 pitches permitted in a day and a pitcher who hits that limit can finish an at-bat during which the 125th pitch occurs.
Another way the new rule could have an impact is late in the year, when teams are trying to make up games that may have been postponed from earlier in the year due to weather. The schedule can become extremely packed late in the year and often, teams have weeks that include both all-important tournament games and key league games on consecutive days.
While Division I programs such as Jackson may have an edge over smaller schools in terms of overall depth and more top-end starting pitchers or relievers on their roster, Gamble knows that a week with multiple big games will be tough to navigate for virtually any squad.
"You might have it where you have a district semifinal and a league game the next day and you’re going to have to have more arms ready to go,” Gamble said.
One interesting angle for the rule change for coaches is that the state hasn’t yet informed them of exactly how the reporting system will work.
“We also don’t know what lengths you have to go to in order to report it or how it’s going to work, but you could be audited at any time," Gamble said.
Ironing out those details and working out any kinks will be an important part of implementing the new rule, but with the start of the season coming up quickly, the OHSAA and programs across Ohio are on the clock as well.
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