The National Federation of State High School Associations mandates that each state have its own pitching restrictions. Vermont is the only state that tracks its pitchers by pitch count, an option not part of the VHSL proposal.
In Maryland, a pitcher may pitch in a maximum of 14 innings in any seven calendar-day period and a maximum of 10 innings within a three calendar-day period. Virginia’s current rule states that a pitcher cannot throw in more than 10 innings in any two consecutive calendar days, and that pitching one ball or more in any one inning is considered as having pitched an inning.
The new rule, if passed, would allow a pitcher to throw as many as nine innings in one day but not more than 15 in any seven-day period, with other restrictions and mandatory rest periods based on the length of a particular outing. For example, a six- or seven-inning stint would require three days of rest.
In its February meeting, the VHSL Executive Committee came within one vote of approving the innings standard.
McLean Coach John Thomas, president of the Northern Region Baseball Coaches’ Association, said he heard back from 15 to 20 coaches in his organization in regard to the VHSL proposal. All opposed it.
“It doesn’t bother me at all that we’re looking at putting some guidelines in for protecting pitchers,” Thomas said. “But if you’re going to put arm restrictions in place, it has to be about pitches and not innings. If they’re going to do it, we’ve got one chance to do it right at the beginning.”
Thomas cites an example of a game this season in which his ace, All-Met Josh Sborz, a Virginia recruit, needed only 52 pitches in a five-inning mercy rule win. The opposing starting pitcher threw many more pitches than Sborz but lasted less than three innings.
Based on the proposed VHSL rule, Sborz would not be allowed to pitch for two days, but the other pitcher would require only one day of rest, even though he threw far more pitches than Sborz.
“It’s somewhat of an uneducated rule as to what exactly happens in baseball,” said Chantilly Coach Kevin Ford, who thinks players do more potential damage to their arms in summer and fall league baseball than they do during a 20-game high school regular season. He thinks the new rule could force young pitchers to the mound before they are ready.
“It kind of takes away your knowledge of what your kids can do and what kind of competitors they are and how good they are with their mechanics,” Ford said. “There are different kids and different body types. It’s all about knowing your kids.”