By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (October 20, 2016) — Head coaches in Stephenville and Dublin have no issue with the new pitch count rule approved earlier this week by the UIL legislative council.
“I think we had a kid throw more than 100 pitches twice all of last season,” said Stephenville head coach Justin Swenson, in reference to the new rule limiting high school pitchers to 110 pitches in a game or playoff series, with a certain number of rest days required between outings based on the amount of pitches thrown. “I don’t really see it affecting us a lot because we have already been careful not to overwork any pitchers.”
Dublin head coach Kellen Cervetto agrees the rule won’t require him to change much in the way he manages his pitchers. Swenson and Cervetto are each entering their second seasons as head coaches, and each reached the playoffs in their respective classifications last spring.
“I’ve already talked to some of our kids and I told them it won’t change anything for us,” said Cervetto. “I was in favor of a limit on innings instead of pitches, but I don’t have a problem with it.”
At one point the UIL was considering varying the limitations based on age, but stopped instead at placing different limitations on high school and junior high pitchers. There are no local school districts sponsoring junior high baseball, primarily played in 5A and 6A.
“I was against doing it by age, but I like it this way, so I’m in favor of it,” said Swenson, who believes it will be programs at schools in Class 4A and below that run into the biggest obstacles.
“In our level and obviously in the smaller divisions, I can see there being a problem because of the number of pitchers you have available,” Swenson said. “That could be a big problem in the playoffs, because a lot of times you see a kid start and pitch maybe even the whole game in game one, then they bring him back out there as a closer in game three.”
That likely wouldn’t be an option with two days of request required following an outing of 46-65 pitches. It’s three days of rest after 66-85 pitches and four days after 86-110 pitches. Tournaments and classics with a number of games over a weekend will also be difficult, even for relief pitchers with a day of rest required after 31-45 pitches. No days off are required after 30 pitches or less. In any case, a pitcher who reaches a limit during an at bat will be allowed to finish that at bat.
The biggest difficulties both coaches see are in the logistics.
“What I’m interested in seeing is how we’re supposed to track it,” said Cervetto. “We count our pitches now, but what if our count and the other team’s count are different? Will there be one person responsible for both team’s official pitch count? I don’t know. Will we have to meet on the phone or whatever before the game and go over all our pitch counts so everyone knows where both teams stand?”
Those are questions many Texas high school coaches are wanting answers, too, and something the UIL says will be up to district executive committees.
As a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations, the UIL legislative council had to pass some form of pitch count regulation after the NFSHSA mandated such from all member states and organizations.
“There swill be some arguments over pitch counts and how to apply and enforce the rule and I think it’s going to be really interesting this first year to see how it all plays out,” said Swenson. “But I’m all about protecting the kids, so I’m all for it.”