UIL approves pitch limits in high school, middle school baseball

The University Interscholastic League’s decision to implement pitch limits for high school and middle school baseball players adds up to a beneficial change, said Round Rock High coach John Carter, who helped draft the proposal.

“I love the rule,” Carter said Tuesday. “It makes the game safer for the players, and that’s something that we need. I’ve had multiple kids have Tommy John surgery and all kinds of arm issues. I think we as high school coaches have done a good job of limiting pitch counts, but some coaches outside of here (high school) aren’t as careful.

“I’d like to see some of the summer leagues have a limit, but the UIL obviously can’t mandate that (practice). Hopefully, this is just a start to limiting pitches.”

This week during its annual October meeting, the UIL legislative council established pitch-limit rules that will take effect this school year if approved by the Texas commissioner of education. Under the rule, a pitcher — regardless of his age or grade — will not be allowed to exceed 110 pitches in a high school game. A pitcher also will be limited to a total of 110 pitches in any three-game playoff series.

Middle school players will be limited to a total of 85 pitches in a game.

Carter, the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association’s UIL liaison, said under the rule, players also will be required to rest their arms for a certain amount of time based on the number of pitches they’ve thrown in a contest. For example, a pitcher will be allowed a maximum of 30 pitches on no days rest. That number rises to a high of 110 pitches on four days rest.

If a pitcher hits his limit during an ongoing at-bat, he may finish that at-bat. The home team will designate an official pitch-counter for each game, and that individual will not be allowed in either team’s dugout. He or she will meet with coaches or team representatives between innings to verify pitch counts.

“I think it’s a good thing because it puts the care of the kids first,” said Lake Travis baseball coach Mike Rogers.

Rogers and Carter conceded that the new rule likely won’t have much effect on Class 6A teams such as Lake Travis and Round Rock, which generally boast a deep pitching rotation as well as an assistant coach who’s available to track pitches.

“But for some of the smaller schools,” Rogers said, “it may certainly be an issue.”

Carter knows the pitch-limit rule will have a disproportional effect on teams from smaller high schools, but he said the positives associated with the change outweigh any negatives.

“It’s definitely tougher on the smaller schools,” Carter said. “They’ll have to be smart in how they use their pitchers, and they may have to develop more starting pitchers, but this is what’s best for the kids.”

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