Pa. high school baseball could use a few rule tweaks

The 2014 high school baseball season has reached its twilight. All but a handful of District 11 teams will be done playing by this morning.

While Notre Dame-Green Pond and Parkland can still pursue a state title, most programs are already pointing toward 2015. Here are a few changes I'd like to see arrive before most of the Lehigh Valley's teams take the field again.

1. Playoff games should go the distance. Current high school baseball rules consider a game complete after 41/2 or five innings. That's fine for the regular season. It shouldn't be for the playoffs.

Pine Grove saw its season end last week when rain interrupted its District 11 Class 2A semifinal against Pen Argyl in the fifth. Easton endured the same fate in 2011, with lightning ending its District 11 4A semifinal against Emmaus after five innings.

Imagine a high school basketball playoff game being called after three quarters because of a leaky roof. Sounds ridiculous, right?

It's just as silly to rob a team of two full turns at-bat because the weather intervenes. Even if teams have to complete one playoff round on the same day another round is scheduled to start, all postseason baseball games should go seven innings.

2. Add pitch-count limits to existing innings limits. A bunch of young big-league pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery this season. Many people are pointing to overuse of pitchers before they reach the pro ranks as a contributing factor to the rash of elbow injuries in the majors.

Every year during the high school baseball playoffs I read stories of coaches allowing a pitcher to throw 140-plus pitches. Two weeks ago a pitcher in Washington threw 194 pitches in 14 innings. That shouldn't be allowed whether a kid is a big-league prospect or someone who will never pitch again after high school.

Most coaches in the Lehigh Valley keep close tabs on pitch counts and look to protect young arms. A rule that keeps pitchers in the 100-110 pitch range would provide another layer of protection.

How would you enforce it? Make the opposing team track the number of pitches thrown and alert umpires of any infractions.

3. Ditch the courtesy runner. I don't care if the rule is designed to speed up the game or involve more kids in the action. Pitchers and catchers should run the bases like everyone else.

Having running caddies for pitchers and catchers is just another layer of specialization in a sport that already has too much of it.

Bahnick's big showing: Bethlehem Catholic graduate Matt Bahnick worked his way onto a Division I baseball roster.

He has the chance to help Kennesaw State continue making history this weekend.

The Owls will play Alabama at noon today in the Tallahassee Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Georgia Southern and host Florida State are the other teams set to compete in the four-team, double-elimination regional.

Kennesaw State is making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament Sunday. Bahnick, a junior third baseman, was one of four Owls to make the Atlantic Sun all-tournament team.

Bahnick started his college baseball career at East Stroudsburg University before transferring to Tallahassee Community College. This is his first season at Kennesaw State, which has won 23 of its last 24 games.

Bahnick enters the NCAA tourney hitting .271 with six doubles, two home runs and 15 RBIs in 44 games (41 starts). He hit a 10th-inning, game-ending homer in a 1-0 win over North Florida to end the regular season. That victory gave the Owls the No. 3 seed for the Atlantic Sun tournament.

One more time: The Morning Call will unveil its all-area baseball team next month. Coaches are asked to share their insights on the area's best players by emailing me at samiller@mcall.com.

Coaches nominating their players should include all positions played as well as full season stats. Nominations for player of the year, pitcher of the year, coach of the year and team of the year are also welcomed.

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