Playing eight games in eight days to start the baseball season meant Columbus North needed plenty of pitching.
That became especially important this season, due to a new pitch-count rule implemented by the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
The rule stipulates that if a player throws between 101 and 120 pitches in a varsity game, they must take at least four days rest before pitching in another game. Three days rest is required for 81 and 100 pitches, two days’ rest is required for 61 to 80 pitches, and one day of rest is required for 36 to 60 pitches.
In addition, a player who throws at least 60 pitches in a two-day period must take at least one day of rest.
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The rule replaces the former guideline, which allowed pitchers a total of 10 innings in a three-day span.
“You have to be efficient,” North coach Ben McDaniel said. “You have to have four or five starters, and you have to have guys that can come in relief. Your starters have to be very efficient to go as deep as they can go.”
Bull Dogs starters certainly did that in the opening week of the season. In those first eight games, McDaniel got complete games out of four different pitchers.
The key factor in those outings is that none of those pitchers reached the threshold for one day.
“We haven’t had a problem with (fatigue) because of the offseason conditioning that we do,” McDaniel said. “We won’t push a guy to 100 or above on two consecutive starts. That’s just not healthy this early in the season.”
“I think it’s good because it keeps pitchers from throwing 100 pitches every single day,” Columbus East senior Jon Crawford said. “It just keeps people’s arms healthy. Most of the time, if you throw 100-plus pitches, you’re not going to be throwing for four more days, anyway.”
North sophomore Jakob Meyer threw 93 pitches in a complete-game win at Franklin. He took a no-hitter into sixth inning of that game.
A week later, Meyer threw 80 pitches in a loss at South Oldham (Kentucky).
“I don’t think the pitch counts have really affected me much this year,” Meyer said. “I feel like I could throw a little bit more than I have, but those rules are there for a reason.”
Perhaps under less restrictive guidelines, McDaniel could have eased freshman Casper Clark into the varsity fray a little more deliberately. Instead, he got the call against a Louisville Trinity team that was ranked No. 1 in Kentucky.
Clark threw 75 pitches over five shutout innings, and the Bull Dogs upset Trinity 5-3.
“(The rule) doesn’t change a whole lot,” Clark said. “This is my first year, so this is what I’m going to be accustomed to from now on.”
Clark isn’t the only local freshman to be thrown into the fire early. East’s Cole Gilley made his first career start April 11 and allowed only two runs and five hits over six innings in a 7-2 win against Shelbyville.
Junior Drew Hasson, who threw 102 pitches in his first start this season, closed out the final inning of the Shelbyville game.
“I think the new pitch-count rule is a good thing for high school baseball,” Hasson said. “I think that’s really going to cut down on injuries. I’ve never gotten to that point where I can’t throw another day because I’ve had too many (pitches).”
The pitch count limits are fewer at the junior varsity and freshman levels. Those players need four days’ rest after 81 to 90 pitches, three days’ rest after 61 to 80 pitches, two days’ rest for 36 to 60 pitches and one day of rest for 26 to 35 pitches.
East coach Jon Gratz said because of that, coaches have to make sure they have plenty of pitchers who can throw at the JV and freshman levels.
“Looking at it over the last couple of years, we never would have really been affected by it,” Gratz said. “We have a pretty deep pitching staff this year, so we should never be affected by it.”
One big change is that schools have to document the number of pitches thrown by each pitcher. At East, volunteer Rory McCoy does the electronic scorebook, and one of the pitchers that isn’t playing that day keeps the pitching chart.
North has four people keep track between its Game Changer app, pitch-calling software, a clicker and a pitch sequence that pitching coaches Jason Maddox and Hunter McIntosh use. These are operated by managers, assistant coaches and players who aren’t in the game.
McDaniel said it’s nothing the Bull Dogs haven’t done in the past.
“We’ve always focused on arm health at Columbus North, and we have a program that rivals anything else out there,” McDaniel said. “We realize the value a healthy pitching staff means to our baseball team, and arm health is of the utmost importance to us.”
61‐80; two days
1‐25; zero days