Prep Baseball & Softball

These new IHSA rules are designed to make baseball safer

dholtmann@bnd.com

The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors on Monday voted to implement a new pitch limitation regulation for its member teams beginning with the 2017 season.

The new rules limit pitchers to 105 pitches in a game and will affect the amount of rest time in between pitching appearances based on the number of pitches thrown. They were developed by the IHSA Baseball Advisory Committee and Sports Medicine Advisory Committee through guidelines

“This was a collaborative effort that goes a long way toward making high school baseball in Illinois safer,” IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee member Dr. Preston Wolin said in a statement on the IHSA web site. “I want to thank the IHSA Board, the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the Baseball Advisory Committee, and all the people who were indispensable in this process for their efforts.”

After reviewing its earlier pitching limitation recommendation, the IHSA Board of Directors presented it to the full IHSA membership during town hall meetings in November.

“The issue at hand is going to be the depth of your pitching staff,” O’Fallon High coach Jason Portz said. “You’re going to need more arms to get through your schedule and teams are going to have to do a better job of balancing out their schedules as well.

“It’s good for the health of the players and looking long-term what we’re trying to accomplish with these kids and getting them to move on to the next level. It’s going to be something overseeing us to making sure everyone is following the same standards.”

It’s a major step on the side of safety, according to the IHSA. Others might wonder how strictly the rules will be enforced or how teams may use their pitchers with strict guidelines in place.

“Kudos to the Baseball Advisory and Sports Medicine Advisory committees for working together on behalf of student safety,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said. “We believe that the NFHS and its state association membership have been leaders in this area in all sports, but ultimately, the high school season encompasses a short window. We hope that youth and travel baseball organizations will follow our lead to help protect these pitchers and their arms.”

Other obvious concerns for small-school teams is the lack of pitching depth enjoyed by larger schools.

There’s also the issue of scheduling games. Many schools typically play up to two conference games in a week during the regular season, along with an extra non-conference game or two and possibly a doubleheader on Saturdays.

“There’s no question how you’re going to schedule non-conference games will be affected here,” Portz said. “It’s definitely going to have an impact. I’m sure you’re going to see a lot of guys who will bullpen games or bullpen more meaningful games, keeping them at a pitch count so they can bring them back on three days rest.”

In addition, limiting pitch counts in high school games does not affect what high school pitchers do at showcase events, during summer baseball league, pitching lessons and camps and other situations.

Many pitchers are also used as infielders, outfielders or catchers when they are not pitching. That could lead to further stress on young arms.

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

At a glance

These are the new pitching limitations imposed for regular season high school baseball games:

  • A pitcher is limited to 105 pitches in a game. If a pitcher pitches between 76-115 pitches, four rest days are required before his next appearance. Three rest days are required for 61-75 pitches, two for 46-60 and one for 31-45.
  • After four days of rest, the pitcher is eligible to pitch to a cap of 90 pitches. After three days of rest, the pitcher is eligible to pitch to a cap of 75 pitches. After two days of rest, the pitcher is eligible to pitch to a cap of 60 pitches. A pitcher who throws 1-30 pitches may pitch on two consecutive days without rest. On the pitcher’s third consecutive day, the pitcher is eligible to pitch to a cap of 45 pitches.
  • A pitcher who reaches the limit in the middle of an at-bat will be allowed to complete the at-bat.
  • Warmup pitches, pick off attempts, or other throws by a pitcher after the ball has been put in play do not count in a pitcher’s pitch count. A pitcher who reaches the pitch count limit in the middle of an at-bat will be allowed to pitch to that batter until that at-bat ends.
  • During the regular season, each team is responsible for counting its own team’s pitches and the opposing team’s pitches. The head coach or designee will compare pitch counts with the opposing team after every even-numbered inning and at the conclusion of the game.
  • If teams report different pitch count numbers to one another, the teams will split the difference and will use that number as the pitcher’s official number. If splitting the difference results in a number that ends in a decimal, the teams will round that number up to the next whole number.
  • If the pitcher is ambidextrous, the limit applies to total pitches, not to each arm.
  • After each game, schools will report their own pitch counts to the IHSA. Although schools will report their pitch counts, and the IHSA will store the data, schools must maintain pitching records of every game they play during the entire season in case questions arise about a certain game.
  • During the postseason, each team is responsible for counting its own team’s pitches and the opposing team’s pitches. The head coach or designee will compare pitch counts after every even-numbered inning and at the conclusion of the game. Additionally, the host school must provide an independent pitch counter to verify each team’s pitch counts after every even-numbered inning and at the conclusion of the game.

In the playoffs, these are the new pitching limitations:

  • 1 to 30 pitches: Eligible to pitch the next day.
  • 31 to 45 pitches: Eligible to pitch after one day of rest.
  • 46 to 60 pitches: Eligible to pitch after two days of rest.
  • 61 to 75 pitches: Eligible to pitch after three days of rest.
  • 76 to 105 pitches: Eligible to pitch after four days of rest.
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