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High school baseball teams continue adjusting to pitch-count rules

High school baseball teams continue adjusting to pitch-count rules

Depth proving to be key resource, especially for small-school squads
High school baseball teams continue adjusting to pitch-count rules
Matt Zumbolo is a member of Fonda-Fultonville's deep pitching staff.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

Fonda-Fultonville got nipped by the state-mandated pitching rules Tuesday during a no-hit bid, yet with its deep lineup of hurlers, the team may over time thrive under those same rules.

The Braves list 14 pitchers on their 16-player roster.

"We've got a lot of arms," Fonda-Fultonville coach Rick Palumbo said. "All of our kids can throw and win games. What it is is what you've got at a smaller school. We consider ourselves lucky to have so many arms."

Pitching depth became a major topic of conversation — and concern by some — when the executive committee of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association in 2017 approved the rules that limit the number of pitches a player can deliver in a day and mandates rest between pitching appearances.

Player safety was at the forefront of that approval.

"We've got a system in place that seems to be working," NYSPHSAA baseball coordinator Al Roy said. "From what I am hearing, there haven't been any major issues."

Massimo DiCaprio reached the one-day limit of 105 pitches when the Fonda-Fultonville senior spun seven no-hit innings Tuesday against Schoharie and departed from a 3-3 tie. Freshman Derek Duval pitched a perfect eighth before the Braves pushed home the winning run in the bottom half on a bunt by DiCaprio.

According to state rules, at the varsity level, a pitcher who throws between 96 and 105 pitches must have four nights rest before taking the mound again. A pitch count between 66 and 95 pitches requires three nights rest, a pitch total between 31 and 65 mandates two nights rest, and a pitch count from one to 30 means one night of rest.

Duval was allowed to come back Wednesday and pitched the final two inning in the Braves 8-3 win at Galway. The Class B Braves — unlike many Section II teams of their size and below — have many more arms at the ready.

"At all levels, teams that have pitching are the teams that are there in the end," Section II baseball coordinator Mike DeMagistris said. "You need a pitching staff. The more arms the better. Even your best pitcher has that day when they can't give you many innings."

With more pitching depth, a coach has more options. Some do not have that luxury and have to get creative.

"There's definitely a strategy behind it," Galway interim athletic director Bob Stulmaker said as he watched the early innings of Wednesday's game. "Not that there wasn't thinking involved before. You've got to think a little more."

"Coaches are doing things that may not seem to make sense, but they do," Broadalbin-Perth athletic director Matt Ehrenreich said.

Knowing his team would be idle Tuesday, Broadalbin-Perth coach R.J. Pingitore used six pitchers in a 21-2 loss to Queensbury Monday. Three of those pitchers were relieved at one point and returned to the mound later on to fire a few more pitches.

"My thought was to get out of there with arms to compete the rest of the week," Pingitore said.

The spring season has been marked by rain and cold temperatures, which has created a backlog of games for numerous baseball teams. Pitching depth will be even more critical as the season goes along.

"We're going to hit that four, five games in a row," Palumbo said. "We've got the arms. We've just got to help them with our defense and hitting."

More arms could be on the way to more high schools should youth leagues within their districts take a proactive approach that DeMagistris urges.

"You're building toward a varsity program, and the more you expose kids to pitching, the better off you will be," DeMagistris said. "There needs to be more emphasis at the lower levels. It's a fine skill and it's hard to teach at the high school level."

"I remember being a kid and no one taught me how to pitch," Ehrenreich said.

There have been no changes in the state pitching rules since their inception, but that could change.

"Every state has to have it, and it's in a good place," DeMagistris said. "It could be better."

The pitch counts increase for postseason contests. A pitcher who throws between 103 and 125 pitches in a game needs four night rest before returning.

"A couple of guys did bring up that when you get to the sectionals, you pump it up, and they were wondering why do we have to wait for the sectionals?" Roy said.

DeMagistris would be OK with increasing the pitch counts on May 1 of each season.

"A kid throws 95 pitches all year, and then you ask him to throw 125 without preparing for it," DeMagistris said. "The goal is to build arm strength. I'd like to see that. If teams are preparing for postseason, let the pitchers prepare. Changing that date would be better for kids and baseball."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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