Mixed reviews for new pitch count rules

If you’ve been to a high school baseball diamond over the last week, you’ve probably heard discussion about the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s new pitch count rules.

The rules, which went into effect on March 25 when the spring sports season in Ohio officially began, have cracked down on the number of pitches a player can throw during a certain amount of time.

This season, players who throw 76 pitches or more in a day are required three days of rest before they are eligible to pitch again; 1-30 pitches requires zero days; 31-50 pitches requires one day and 51-75 pitches requires two days. The daily pitch limit is 125. Before, pitchers were limited to 10 innings in a three-day span, but the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) informed all states they were required to have a pitch count limit.

Now, teams around the state are forced to adjust and use more strategy when it comes to pitching decisions. Local head coaches have had mixed reactions to the new rules.

“Everybody’s very awake and aware of what’s happening with the count,” said Fort Frye head coach Sonny Bidwell.

“We train a lot of pitchers, and we’re going to have to get them on the mound maybe before they’re ready. You’ve got to be smart, know your schedule and do a lot more planning in the game a lot closer to where the pitch count is instead of by innings.”

During a game, both teams have somebody keeping a pitch count; Those numbers are to be readily available for the OHSAA upon request. If it is determined an ineligible player pitched when rest was required, that player’s team will forfeit the game.

It’s a rule designed to protect the arms of young athletes, but also presents challenges for coaches with not much pitching depth. Frontier head coach Kurt Satterfield said his team may struggle during stretches with multiple games in multiple days.

“I’ve got to get kids who’ve never thrown to start mechanically working,” Satterfield said. “It’s hard to do.”

Satterfield said he’s not the only one who’s not a fan of the rules. In an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference coaches meeting, it seemed to be the consensus.

“I was in a meeting with 52 OVAC coaches. None of them liked it,” he said. “We would have been good with it if it had been 50 to 70 pitches, then a days rest. This rule, we threw 30 pitches, a couple people did in one day (Saturday). You can get in a mess like that and then not pitch again for two days. That’s not good, for us anyway.”

Bidwell added, “You have to watch your pitching depth and add pitching depth.”

For bigger schools with more players at their disposal, the rules may not be as big a factor.

“I don’t know that it affects us that much,” said Warren skipper Ryan Lemley. “We never had anybody throw 125 last year. I think there was one time where Max (Hapney) actually pitched in both games of a double-header. That would have affected us. Other than that, the pitch count would not have affected us that much.”

In double-headers like Lemley mentioned, if a pitcher throws 31-plus pitches in the first game, that player is not eligible to pitch in the second game or the next day.

“We have no business playing double-headers, ever,” Satterfield said. “We don’t have enough kids.”

Marietta head coach Jim Thrash’s team features one of the deepest pitching staff in the Mid-Ohio Valley, and while the new rules will lead to more preparation on Thrash’s part, it shouldn’t cause many problems.

“I’m concerned about it, but I’m not worried about it,” he said. “We are a deep pitching staff. I don’t believe the new rules are going to adversely affect us, just because I feel like I can turn to several guys and they can get the job done.”

Jordan Holland is an associate sports editor for The Marietta Times. He can be reach at (304) 485-1891 ext. 256 or at jholland@mariettatimes.com.