New pitch count guidelines to take effect for North Carolina high school baseball pitchers

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CHAPEL HILL — Moving into spring 2017 there will be new guidelines for pitchers at the high school level after the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Board of Directors announced expected changes to pitch count rules for baseball.

With more emphasis focused on arm related injuries and reducing the risk for high school aged pitcher, the board handed down new pitch count limits during its winter meeting on Dec. 1 following months of research and input.

West Brunswick Coach T.J. Spivey chimed in on the new changes.
West Brunswick Coach T.J. Spivey chimed in on the new changes.

The North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association (NCBCA) was on the front lines in gathering information for the National Federation of State High School Associations to aid the effort. 

Last year, coaches across the state kept detailed statistics on their pitchers and sent their data to the NCBCA.

A NCBCA proposal requested a pitch count of 120 during a single outing, but the state athletic association decided to go with a 105-pitch maximum per appearance as proposed by the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee as part of a study conducted by USA Baseball.

“I support the decision and not sure if people realize how much effort and thought went into the process,” said West Brunswick Baseball Coach T.J. Spivey. “The NCHSAA allowed our baseball association to give a lot of input and that was a great idea. Pitch count was going to happen and I think we were fortunate to have the chance to provide so much input.”

Beginning this upcoming baseball season, high school pitchers will be allowed a 105-pitch count in any one single outing. If a pitcher throws 76 or more pitches during one appearance, they must be required four days rest before taking the mound again.

If a pitcher throws 61-75 pitches in one day, the pitcher needs three days of rest. For 46-60 pitches, a pitcher must rest two calendar days; and one calendar day of rest is required for 31-45 pitches. If a pitcher throws 1-30 pitches in a day, no rest days are required before pitching again.

While the NCHSAA did not go with the recommendations offered by the baseball coaches association, it did made a concession to the postseason pitch limit as proposed by coaches in the state. With the playoff system featuring a best-of-three series to decide a regional winner and eventual state champion, the board of directors made an exception for the state championship series held over a two-day period, while scheduling best-of-three regionals over a five-day span hopes to give coaches more options.

Ashley High School pitcher Kevin Mintz. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Ashley High School pitcher Kevin Mintz. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

A maximum of 120 pitches per outing will be allowed in a best-of-three state championship series, with one game typically played on Friday and two games, if necessary, on Saturday. The best-of-three regional series will be scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Like in Little League Baseball, if a pitcher reaches the 105-pitch threshold during an at-bat, he will be allowed to finish the at-bat before leaving the mound.

Questions of how enforcement would be upheld continued pop up during the process. Based on the NCHSAA decision, the honor system will play a big role in keeping up to date on active pitch counts and rest.

Coaches will be responsible for tallying the number of pitches on an accountability form. The document will be signed by competing coaches after the game and entered into MaxPreps.com.

NCBCA members are expected to propose an amendment to the plan following the 2017 season.

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