High School Sports

What’s in a number? Pitch counts could play role in deciding SC baseball playoffs

Waccamaw’s Reed Edwards hurls a pitch toward home plate during Tuesday’s Class 3A baseball playoff game against Timberland.
Waccamaw’s Reed Edwards hurls a pitch toward home plate during Tuesday’s Class 3A baseball playoff game against Timberland. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

When your pitcher’s in a groove, what coach wants to be the one to tell him he’s being pulled for a fresher arm?

On Tuesday night, Waccamaw baseball coach Jeff Gregory was not going to be that guy. Tabbing Reed Edwards as the Warriors’ starter in their playoff opener with Timberland, the right-hander made his coach’s decision pay off.

Edwards was masterful, throwing seven innings of shutout baseball, scattering four hits while striking out 11 in Waccamaw’s 4-0 win.

Still, there was a small morsel of regret for the Warriors’ longtime baseball coach, as Edwards’ final count of 98 pitches on the night will put him on the shelf for the next several days.

“We were hoping not to use him as much as we did, but in a tight ballgame we decided to ride him,” Gregory said. “We’ll see what we got ready for Thursday. But pitching depth, it will certainly be tested in the district tournament.”

Last fall, the S.C. High School League’s Executive Committee adopted rules subjecting pitchers at the varsity level to a 110-pitch count per game, starting with this season.

Having depth is a good thing, but (pitch counts) will become a factor (in the playoffs). We all knew that as coaches in the state, that it wouldn’t be a factor during the season, but in the postseason it would. I think we all are going to be watching things a little closer, keeping a guy under one game so he will be good for the next. It will be interesting because everything is magnified in the playoffs.

Myrtle Beach baseball coach Tim Christy

A sliding scale, those who deliver 90-110 pitches in a game must rest five calendar days before taking the hill again. Should a pitcher hit the 110-pitch limit during an at-bat, he will be allowed to finish with that batter before being taken out.

Other limits and mandatory rest periods include 31-45 pitches (one day), 46-60 pitches (two days) 61-75 pitches (three days) and 76-90 (four days).

The move came shortly after a National Federation of State High School Associations decision requiring individual states to regulate how many pitches a player can throw in a game. Previously, each state was responsible for its own regulatory measure in regard to pitch count.

Through last season, pitcher were not allowed to throw more than 10 innings in a 72-hour span.

By and large, coaches did not feel the effects of the rule change during the regular season. With the arrival of the postseason and a condensed schedule — games being played every two to three days — they expect that to change.

“It really has been a non-factor for us,” said Myrtle Beach baseball coach Tim Christy. “We try to take care of our pitchers, so we aren’t doing anything we haven’t done in the past.(The rule) is good for baseball in South Carolina, but we as a team haven’t thought about it much.

“Having depth is a good thing, but (pitch counts) will become a factor (in the playoffs). We all knew that as coaches in the state, that it wouldn’t be a factor during the season, but in the postseason it would. I think we all are going to be watching things a little closer, keeping a guy under one game so he will be good for the next. It will be interesting because everything is magnified in the playoffs.”

Fortunately for a bevy of area teams, there is no shortage of arms in their respective rotations.

While largely riding the broad shoulders of pitchers Cameron Bodge and Lawson Cribb, others including Billy Leckie and Tyler Burgess have also started games for Myrtle Beach. Equally as deep is the Carolina Forest pitching staff, which features Coastal Carolina commit Bryar Johnson, Charleston Southern signee Caleb Vaught, Duke commit Mike Foltz and Austin Padgett.

“I tend to like our chances with out pitching,” said Carolina Forest baseball coach Joey Worley. “And with four guys like we have that can take the mound, when you have at least four colts you can depend on, it makes a lot of difference.”

No staff has proven as durable as that of Waccamaw, though, the group going above 100 pitches on eight occasions over the course of the season. Winthrop commit Jaret Montenery is responsible for half of those, his longest outing seeing him throw 112 pitches.

You’re going to see a difference between teams, especially if they get into the loser’s bracket. Look at us last year, we were able to ride (Grayson) Stoneking and (Anthony) Peck all the way to the state championship series because we were fortunate to stay in the winner’s bracket. Unless you have a bad outing or face a patient team and your pitch count gets up, it can be a difference maker.

St. James baseball coach Robbie Centracchio

In some ways, Gregory believes that was what made Edwards’ performance Tuesday against Timberland equally important. A win Thursday night — with Montenery on the mound — would not only put it in the catbird seat in regard to potentially advancing to the Lower State 3A tournament, it would also grant Waccamaw pitchers a few days of additional rest.

“If you can win on Thursday, you get all your pitchers back,” the longtime Warriors baseball coach said. “Get your ones, twos and threes back, have them healthy, that’s the whole point of this. You get a little comfortable and force a team to have to come to your place and beat you twice.”

St. James baseball coach Robbie Centracchio knows that position rather well.

A year ago, the Sharks started fast at the district tournament level, following it up a week later by doing the same in the Lower State championship. Most importantly, it allowed the club to keep its stable of pitchers fresh.

With pitch counts added to the equation, wins become even more of a necessity.

“You’re going to see a difference between teams, especially if they get into the loser’s bracket,” Centracchio said. “Look at us last year, we were able to ride (Grayson) Stoneking and (Anthony) Peck all the way to the state championship series because we were fortunate to stay in the winner’s bracket.

“If you have a bad outing or face a patient team and your pitch count gets up, it can be a difference maker.”

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII

Pitch counts among playoff teams

Starters’ avg.

no. of pitches

100+ pitch games

Aynor

73

2 (112 — Nick Fowler vs. Georgetown; 110 — Ridge Richardson vs. Hanahan)

Carolina Forest*

62

1 (107 — Bryar Johnson, vs. Socastee)

Loris

72

4 (113 — Tanner Kennedy, vs. Waccamaw; 108 — Tanner Kennedy, vs. Lake City; 101 — Gage Smith, vs. Aynor; 100 — Neil Mincey, vs. Garfield)

Myrtle Beach

73

0 (Most in a game: 93 — Cameron Bodge, vs. Marlboro County)

North Myrtle Beach

71

0 (Most in a game: 94 — Dalton Simpson, vs. McBee)

St. James

70

1 (105 — Maddy Hammons, vs. Robinson (W. Va.)

Waccamaw

78

8 (112 — Jaret Montenery, vs. Aynor and Lake City; 107 — Karl Strittmater, vs. Andrews; 103 - Jaret Montenery, vs. Dillon and vs. Aynor; Reed Edwards, vs. Lake City; Josh Monroe, vs. Loris; 101 - Josh Monroe vs. St. James)

* — Some of Carolina Forest’s pitch count statistics were not available

** — Carvers Bay, Conway and Green Sea Floyds also made postseason. Complete pitch count statistics were not available.

SCHSL PITCH COUNT REGULATIONS

▪  Zero-30 pitches: No rest required

▪  31-45 pitches: One day’s rest

▪  46-60 pitches: Two days’ rest

▪  61-75 pitches: Three days’ rest

▪  76-90 pitches: Four days’ rest

▪ 91-110 pitches: Five days’ rest. (SCISA maximum is 105 pitches.)

Pitchers can exceed a limit to finish out a batter. If a pitcher works on consecutive days, his cumulative total will determine his rest period.

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