Counting pitches: New MSHSL rule will impact area baseball teams
Published 8:24 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Last spring the Lyle-Pacelli baseball team made one of its biggest postseason runs in team history behind the arm of senior Daniel Bollingberg. The Athletics made a rare trip to the Section 1A tournament as Bollingberg, who is now playing baseball at Division III University of St. Thomas, pitched three games in six days for the Athletics during that run.
Due to a new Minnesota State High School League rule this season, there will not be any repeat performances like Bollingberg had last year. This season there is a pitch count rule that limits pitchers to 105 pitches per contest and it requires three days rest for a pitcher who throws that many pitches.
The new rule will certainly cause Class A head coaches to make some big decisions with their pitching staff when the postseason rolls around. Although the postseason pitch count limit is bumped up to 115 in one game, it will be a major factor.
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LP head coach Brock Meyer said that the new rule puts a lot of pressure on smaller schools, who sometimes only have a few consistent hurlers on their roster.
“My thing is if you are managing your arms right it shouldn’t matter anyways. I think it puts a strain on a lot of programs because as any baseball coach knows, quality pitching is hard to find and come playoff time you want your best kids out there,” Meyer said. “During playoff time teams are going to need at least five quality arms to make a deep run, a luxury most small schools don’t have. But that being said, everybody has to play with it and I know why the rule is there. It just may be frustrating at times, especially the first year when everybody is getting use to it.”
The rule will also impact teams during the regular season if a starting pitcher is rolling, but racking up a lot of pitches. Meyer is hoping that teams aren’t forced to take out their ace pitchers in tight contests due to the rule. Pitchers could also miss out on shutout or no-hit opportunities, depending on how patient opposing hitters are.
“Our pitchers are going have to throw strikes and pitch to contact,” Meyer said.
The new rule will have a smaller impact on bigger schools, which usually have more capable pitchers at their disposal. Austin head baseball coach Joe Kroc said that he doesn’t want his team thinking about the rule and taking pitches when it is batting.
“As far as our hitters go, I don’t want our guys thinking about that. I just want them focused on having a quality at bat,” Kroc said. “If that at bat is two pitches or eight pitches, as long as it’s a quality at bat that’s all we can ask for.”
The rule will have the biggest impact on bigger school teams that have a clear ace or shut-down pitcher. Teams won’t be able to ride one arm deep into the postseason like they may have in the past. Kroc said that shouldn’t be a problem for the Packers, who have a deep pitching staff this spring.
“I think it’ll help us because we don’t have that number one shutdown guy,” Kroc said. “We have a lot of guys that are solid. Some other team might throw a guy 150 pitches in a game and that’s not going to be possible now.”
If teams are caught violating the pitch count rule, the game is forfeited. After two violations, the game is forfeited and the coach is suspended for one game and after the third violation, the game is forfeited and the coach is suspended four games.
During the regular season, teams must someone to track the pitch count for their team and in the postseason, that person must be an adult.
NEW PITCH MSHSL PITCH COUNT LIMITS
Pitches thrown: 1-30; Required days rest: 0
Pitches thrown: 31-50; Required days rest: 1
Pitches thrown: 51-75; Required days rest: 2
Pitches thrown: 76-105; Required days rest: 3
Daily max: 105 pitches (115 in the postseason)