New Pitch-Count Rule Violators Face Automatic Forfeiture



By Steve Krah
PBR Indiana Correspondent 

Protecting young athletes is what the Indiana High School Athletic Association had in mind when it followed the National Federation of High School Federations mandate and adopted pitch-count rules for baseball. 

“A health and safety issue is what it’s all about,” IHSAA Assistant Commissioner Phil Gardner said Thursday, Oct. 6, after the IHSAA Executive Committee met and unanimously approved amending Rule 51-4 of the by-laws to reflect specific limits on numbers of pitches and required periods of rest for varsity and sub-varsity levels. 

By making the rule a part of by-laws, it means a hammer could fall on violators. 

“It’s in the rule that it is an automatic forfeiture if you violate the pitch-count rule,” Gardner said. “(The violator) would be expected to report (the violation) to the commissioner and he would decide on any other punishments to be handed out.” 

Before this change, pitchers were restricted in the number of innings they could pitch in a given period of time. Now, it is pitches that will count.  

Gardner saw no real opposition to the old rule and has seen none with the switch. 

“There’s been no push-back,” Gardner said.  

According to an IHSAA release: “No pitcher may throw more than 120 pitches in a varsity level game/calendar day or 90 pitches in a sub‐varsity level game/calendar day. Anyone who throws at least 36 pitches in a varsity contest or 26 in a sub‐varsity contest must receive one day of required rest. Additionally, any pitcher who throws more than 60 pitches over two days will be required one day of rest.  

If a pitcher reaches the maximum number of pitches in a pitch count level (see table below), during an at‐bat, the pitcher may complete the at‐bat without moving to the next pitch count level. Any replacement pitcher will have a maximum of 16 warm‐up throws.  

Schools also will be mandated to use a pitch count chart — provided by the IHSAA — for each pitcher on the team and submit updated pitching statistics to their school administrators following each game. The use of an ineligible pitcher in a game shall result in the forfeiture of that game.” 

Craig Trout, head coach of Class 3A state champion Northview, sat in on a committee with IHSAA officials and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association members that studied the pitch-count rule. He favors the change and the serious approach. 

“It’s not a guideline,” Trout said. “You have to put a harder line on this. We’re talking about player safety. 

“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” Trout said. “We need to make sure as coaches that we are educated on strength and conditioning part of it.” 

Trout notes that actual game pitches are just part of the equation. There are also bullpen tosses, warm-up pitches between innings, pick-off throws and pitches from the previous day or two as well as the intensity of the pitches to consider. 

“Those numbers we don’t get on paper sometimes,” Trout said. “We can say the guy threw a lot more pitches than 100 that day, but it might have been a lot more than that.” 

While the IHSAA will use the 2017 season to work out the bugs of the new system, it is likely to have impacts on how teams develop depth in their pitching staff and some teams will likely “work the count” more in order to raise the pitch count of the opposition. 

“Sometimes this rule will determine the outcome of the game,” Trout said. “But we need to look at the bigger picture. It’s about arm care and safety. You want don’t let a kid lose a kid for a year (with arm trouble) just to win a game.” 

As Providence coach Scott Hornung was leading his team to a Class 2A state title, he was emphasizing quality at-bats while raising the other team’s pitch count.  

Hornung can see an added emphasis on this with the new mandate. 

“Our goal as an offensive team was to have quality at-bats and drive up pitch counts and maybe get into the other team’s bullpen,” Hornung said. 

The veteran of more than two decades as a coach is a fan of the new rule. 

“I’m looking at this as a better opportunity to keep my players safe,” Hornung said. “Why wouldn’t you want to do that to the best of your ability? 

“Coaches that put heart and soul into their teams and athletes won’t be affected by it. They were monitoring pitch counts anyway. We would not pitch a guy 120 pitches and bring them back without adequate rest.” 

Some of his pitchers may have aspirations of pitching beyond high school and Hornung said he does not want to jeopardize that. 

One decision many programs will have is looking at more players as potential pitchers. But with the rules spelled out, Hornung said some of the decision-making has been done for coaches. They can only throw so many pitches and then they have to rest. To do otherwise may be harmful to the pitcher, but it will also be a violation. 

Count Joel Reinebold, head coach at South Bend Clay High School, as an advocate of the change. His staff tracks all pitches — from the bullpen on — for his own pitchers and for opponents. 

“It’s a very overdue thing,” Reinebold said. “In theory, it’s supposed to save kids’ arms, but it’s going to force coaches to develop other players, too. How are they going to apply it? That’s the main thing.” 

For more information, visit www.ihsaa.org or www.nfhs.org

IHSAA BASEBALL PITCHING LIMITS

Varsity Pitch Count

Levels

1 — 1-35 pitches — 0 days required rest

2 — 36-60 pitches — 1 day required rest

3 — 61-80 pitches — 2 days required rest

4 — 81-100 pitches — 3 days required rest

5 — 101-120-plus pitches — 4 days required rest 

Sub-Varsity Pitch Count

Levels

1 — 1-25 pitches — 0 days required rest

2 — 26-60 pitches — 1 day required rest

3 — 36-60 pitches — 2 days required rest

4 — 61-80 pitches — 3 days required rest

5 — 81-90-plus pitches — 4 days required rest