Small-school teams about to feel pitch-count crunch


In every tight game this season, Waterford-Halfmoon baseball coach Mike Robbins’ focus has been on two places this season.

First, on the field. Obviously.

Then, on the guy in his dugout keeping track of his pitcher’s pitch count. Robbins’ line of questioning for him comes with a staccato delivery.  

“What’s he at? What’s he at? What’s he at?”

He laughs thinking about it.

“I must drive him crazy,” Robbins said.

But a lot of small-school baseball coaches in Section II are about to have their patience tested. Fields for the section’s classification tournaments are scheduled to come out Tuesday, and Class C and Class D coaches are about to have to navigate through a tightly-packed postseason schedule for the first time in the state’s pitch-count era. In those two classes, the possibility for a team includes playing a first round game Tuesday, a quarterfinal Thursday, a semifinal Saturday and a championship game the following Tuesday.

That’s a potential four games in eight days. The larger classifications — with more kids and pitchers on their roster — have a bit more of a break between their semifinal and championship rounds.

“It’s just going to be really tough,” Mayfield head coach Darren Graf said.

In the postseason, the state’s pitch-count rules — which require a certain number of rest days for a pitcher who throws a certain number of pitches — become a little more lenient. Instead of the 105 limit in the regular season, pitchers can throw as many as 125 pitches. The other pitch-count thresholds also see increases, too.

Still, it’s not going to be easy for Class C squads like Mayfield and Waterford to navigate a four-postseason-games-in-eight-days stretch. Both Graf and Robbins said their rosters include eight kids who can pitch — but that doesn’t mean each has eight pitchers.

“We probably have eight guys who can throw,” Robbins said of his 13-player team. “Now, don’t get me wrong — that’s not eight guys who I can throw against anybody. But they battle because they’re tough kids.”

On Graf’s dozen-man roster, he similarly has eight players he could pitch. But he feels most comfortable with four of them . . . and the eighth potential pitcher is his son Brian, who is the team’s top catcher.

“So that’s a problem right there,” said Graf, laughing.

Given the state pitching rules and the setup of Section II’s Class C and D tournaments, a top pitcher who goes the distance could still pitch every other game. However, Graf said he could look to get through each game pitching his best pitchers for only a couple innings at a time, trying to keep them eligible for each game.

Robbins, though, has one of the section’s true aces in Connor Houle. The junior’s thrown a couple no-hitters this season and is expected to go the distance when he gets the ball.

“When he’s on the mound,” Robbins said, “our team has a different demeanor.”

Houle is efficient, so he likely won’t have a problem staying below 125 pitches. Robbins hinted he likely wouldn’t leave him in for that long, anyway. Both Graf and Robbins voiced support for the new pitch-count rules, even if they could make this postseason a tough one to navigate.

“I’m 100 percent in favor of a pitch count because there’s no reason for a kid to be throwing 120 pitches in a game at 15, 16, 17 years old,” Graf said. “I just don’t think it’s the right thing.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. 

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