AHSAA issues 2 new rules: game number and pitch counting

Johnny Thornton

West Point High School Athletic Director Randy Jones with the pitch count equipment at Friday’s game

WEST POINT – The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) has made two changes to the rules for prep baseball in Alabama. Teams from Class 1A to 6A are permitted a 28-game regular season schedule (including tournaments); for schools in 7A, the number is 32. The major rule change is a pitch count per player.

Under the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) rules, a junior or senior is allowed 120 pitches per day. The number for freshmen or sophomores is 100 and 85 for seventh and eighth graders.

A pitcher who throws 76 or more legal pitches in one day has to rest for three days. For 51 to 75 pitches, a two-day rest is required and one calendar day of rest for 26 to 50 pitches.

No rest is required for a pitcher who throws 25 or less in a game situation.

Warm-up pitches are not counted.

The home team at each game for varsity, junior varsity and middle school, must have a person chart the number of pitches per inning and game.

The person must be at least 18 years or older. It can 17 years and younger for junior varsity and middle school.

Athletic Director Randy Jones is handling the pitch count for varsity games for West Point High School. His son Rylan is a member of the squad.

Jones used a computerized system to chart the pitches during Friday's game between the Warriors and the Hanceville Bulldogs.

The pitch count recorder cannot be in the dugout of either team. Jones was located behind home plate. Most will be visually located near home plate for the plate umpire to be notified of the number of pitches once each inning is completed.

Hanceville's Gavin Cruce was able to go the distance in a 7-5 come-from-behind victory Friday, throwing 82 pitches. He tossed 20 pitches in the final inning after his team overcame a 3-0 deficit to start the seventh.

West Point starter Matt McDonald threw 49 pitches and was pulled after four innings by coach Seth Ward.

The rule is designed to reduce potential injuries to pitchers if they are throwing a high number and not getting proper rest from one game to the next.

A high school program is not like the majors, where there may be at least four starters who can be used in a rotation. This will create more pitching changes and less complete games, unless teams are winning by a 10-run rule after five innings.

Jones noted that coaches will have to minimize wasting pitches on each batter.

Through the first four innings of the Hanceville-West Point game, the two starters combined for only three hits allowed with three strikeouts and nine outs on ground balls. The game had a quick pace through four innings, about an hour, and finished in an hour and 47 minutes.

Jones got a good test on the system back last summer while participating in All-Star Sports Week at Montgomery. The system was used in the all-star games with each school having to have a person take a test to become certified in its operation.

Failure to use the pitch count correctly will result in a $250 fine by the AHSAA for a varsity contest and $125 for junior varsity and middle school games.

All pitch counts have to be filed after each game through each school's association with www.C2Cschools.com, a website the AHSAA uses for schedules, scores, etc. for each sanctioned school/sport.

Feedback on how the system operates is probable. The baseball season in the AHSAA is officially underway with the pitch count to be utilized seriously for the first time, especially when teams qualify for the state playoffs in late April.


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