A new pitch-count rule could throw a curve ball into the way South Whidbey’s baseball team operates this season.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has implemented limitations on the number of pitches a player can throw in a game and the amount of rest needed following the game. If a pitcher throws between 76-105 times, they are required to rest three calendar days. For 51-75 pitches, it’s a two-day rest and a one-day rest for between 31-50 pitches.
“That really is changing the way we’re approaching our pitching stuff,” Falcon head coach Tom Fallon said. “It doesn’t hurt, but it definitely is different.”
The Falcons, who finished 13-10 overall and 10-7 in the Cascade Conference, lost two of its top pitchers in Ricky Muzzy and Charlie Patterson to graduation this past spring. With the loss of Muzzy and Patterson and the rule change, the Falcons will implement a six or seven player rotation.
“We’ll just piecemeal games together,” Fallon said. “There’s a couple of weeks where we play four games a week and that gets really tight with the pitch count.”
For senior Connor Antich, the loss of Muzzy and Patterson is a chance for him and the other veteran players to show their worth.
“We’ve been waiting for that opportunity,” Antich said. “We’ve been shadowed by guys like Charlie and Ricky. I feel like it’s our turn now to lead the program.”
Adding to Antich’s sentiments, Falcon senior Will Simms said there will be a bigger focus on utilizing the skills and talents of all its players, as opposed to having two players lead the program.
South Whidbey, which was second among the league’s class 1A teams in 2016, returns four of its starters.
“We’re a new team, so it’s probably going to take a little while to figure out where we’re at,” Fallon said.
Antich said that because of the new pitch-count rule, more players will also play vital roles in the team’s success.
“A lot more pitchers are going to have to throw,” Antich said. “Instead of throwing our two aces every game, it’s going to be more collective team pitching.”
Antich said that finishing the regular season with at least 10 wins and reaching the district playoffs could be considered a success. Simms said that qualifying for the playoffs would not only provide them with another opportunity to reach the state tournament, but also adequate experience for the younger players who have not yet had a taste of the postseason.
“If we could get into the playoffs and show them what it’s like to go fairly deep, it would be nice,” Simms said.
Antich also hopes to instill in the younger players a sense of the program’s expectations over the past few years. Antich and other veteran players were part of the Falcons’ improbable state run in 2015 which ultimately resulted in a second place trophy.
“I think we have a good chance to leave a good impression on what the program has been about the past four years and I think they have a good future ahead of them,” Antich said. “I’m pumped for that opportunity to mentor the young guys.”
Following a 6-5 win over Chimacum on March 16 and a 7-4 loss to Coupeville on March 18, the Falcons are 1-1 overall. They return home today to play Cedar Park Christian. First pitch is at 4 p.m.