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Baseball coaches around the WPIAL will spend spring afternoons counting to 100.
Following a mandate from National Federation of State High School Associations, the PIAA Board of Directors finalized plans Wednesday to establish a pitch limit for high school pitchers around the state. Each state was allowed to set its own one-day limit and the PIAA chose 100 pitches.
In previous seasons, high school pitchers were limited by innings.
"When you talk about innings, a kid could throw 70 pitches in two innings," said North Allegheny athletic director and chairman of the WPIAL baseball committee Bob Bozzuto. "It needed to be addressed."
In the works since summer, the new PIAA guidelines also established how much rest pitchers need between outings. Three calendars days are required for 76-100 pitches, two days for 51-75 and a day for 26-50.
No rest is required for fewer than 26 pitches, but a player cannot pitch more than two consecutive days.
If a pitcher reaches the 100-pitch limit in the middle of an at-bat, he can finish pitching to that batter but cannot face another. A pitcher cannot throw more than 200 pitches in a calendar week, from Sunday through Saturday.
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"We considered different models from different states," Bozzuto said. "We also had Dr. (James) Andrews' recommended plan, and we had some other baseball organizations' programs."
The PIAA baseball committee was satisfied with the numbers it picked, but "we'll probably tweak the formula as we go," Bozzuto said. "We know we might make some adjustments to it (in future years)."
In nearby states, the Ohio High School Athletic Association set a 125-pitch limit, while the New York State Public High School Athletic Association chose 105.
"Protecting the kids is a good thing, and that's what this is designed to do," said Plum coach Carl Vollmer, whose team reached the WPIAL and state finals last spring, and saw senior Alex Kirilloff drafted by the Minnesota Twins.
"You like to believe that everybody who coaches has the right idea in mind and would never do anything to put a kid's arm in jeopardy," Vollmer said. "The fact of the matter is that's not always the case; winning is important to a lot of people."
The NFHS wanted to minimize the risk of arm injuries from overuse, so its baseball rules committee voted in June to mandate pitch-count limits for this season. The PIAA and the WPIAL follow NFHS guidelines.
"Most high schools kind of follow rules similar to this anyway," Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. "So I don't think it's going to have a huge impact on everyone. "¦ This is my 10th year, and there haven't been too many games where (opposing) kids have been out there for huge pitch-count numbers."
Both teams will be asked to keep pitch counts but not the umpire. If a pitcher exceeds a limit, his team would forfeit. Ideally, the two teams' statisticians will talk between innings, Bozzuto said.
"The biggest difficulty for this will be tracking the pitches for both guys," Buzzard said, "and having everybody on the same page for what that actual number is. The difference between having 100 pitches and 101 can be significant."
"You'll have to devote one of your coaches to counting pitches," Burrell coach Mark Spohn said, "rather than out there helping with whatever they do."Â
Strategically, the pitch limit could benefit teams will deeper pitching staffs.
"It's going to change the game without a doubt," Vollmer said. "In the sixth and seventh innings, you're going to have to use more arms, which is a good thing."
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
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