Copyright 2017 The E.W. Scripps Company
All Rights Reserved
Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)
For the most part, the new pitch-count rule instituted by the University Interscholastic League for this baseball season shouldn't be much of an issue for high school coaches.
Unless, that is, a team finds itself in an extremely long game.
That was the case Friday as Keller Fossil Ridge outlasted Keller Timber Creek 9-4 in a 14-inning marathon that took four hours to play and saw the teams use seven pitchers who combined to throw more than 400 pitches.
The new rule, which was adopted in October, limits a pitcher to 110 pitches in a game. Any pitcher with more than 85 pitches in a game must have four days rest before returning to the mound.
When Fossil Ridge visited Abilene High in a showdown for sole possession of first place in the District 3-6A standings, only Dylan Neuse was ineligible to take the mound for the Panthers. Neuse, who played shortstop against AHS, threw 92 pitches in 72/3 innings on Friday. Fossil Ridge's starter against Timber Creek, Justin Gordon, threw 56 pitches over 41/3 innings, while Jesse Martin needed 37 pitches to get through two innings for the win. Neither was used Tuesday against the Eagles.
"It's not like I would have thrown that kid (Neuse) anyway," Panthers coach Doug Dulany said after Abilene High's 6-5 victory at Blackburn Field. "He was not available, but we would not have thrown him (Tuesday. The rule) really hasn't affected us much."
Dulany said the rule puts more emphasis on pitching depth, but said "probably 10" players on Fossil Ridge's 19-man roster have pitched before. Abilene High coach Ryan Lewis said it was a similar situation with the Eagles.
Related: Pitch Count Rules Find Broad Support
"That's a lot of what tournament season is about, finding a lot of arms," Lewis said. "Then you find out your best five or so.
"If you're getting blown out with the pitch-count rule now and you know you're playing three days later, you may not throw your (top) dude. You may say, 'Let's get a guy out there that can eat up some innings.'"
Dulany said one way to handle situations like his team faced is to establish who is a Tuesday starter or Friday starter once district play begins.
"That's kind of how we've always done it," he said. "Unless you've got three really good dudes, most teams just do have a Tuesday guy and a Friday guy. Then you've got certain guys that close out games."
Lewis said the key for coaches is to be aware of which pitchers will be eligible for each game.
"I just go in there and and make sure I know who's available," he said. "Who do I have? Who can throw? After that, I don't care. I'm going to play that game and worry about the next game later. If I've got a chance to win this one, I'm going to win this one.
"You've got your idea, but sometimes it's like Mike Tyson said, 'Everybody's got an idea until they get punched in the mouth.'"
Dulany said most coaches stay up to date on how many pitches a pitcher has thrown. The rule simply delineates when a change must be made.
"Really, when you get down to it, most coaches take care of their kids, anyway," Dulany said. "Pitch count and all that, they need to worry about that more in the summer than in the UIL. Most high school coaches do a great job of watching their kids and they care for their kids, where sometimes you get guys in their summer tournaments that are trying to win tournaments and overthrow guys.
"Texas high school coaches are really good. They take care of their kids."
A loophole in the rule allowed Abilene High starter Andrew Bennett to finish a complete game on Tuesday. If a pitcher hits the 110-pitch limit during an at-bat, he is allowed to finish that at-bat before coming out.
Bennett was at 108 pitches when Fossil Ridge's R.J. White stepped in with two outs in the seventh and needed four more pitches to end the game.
The Panthers had the tying run at third base when the game ended, and Lewis said the Eagles had a pitcher warmed up if White had reached base.
"We had John Esparza ready and he was fixing to go," Lewis said. "I trust anybody we throw out there."
"Really, when you get down to it, most coaches take care of their kids, anyway."
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter