AUGUSTA — The Maine Principals’ Association baseball committee finalized a proposal Tuesday that will prohibit pitchers from throwing more than 110 pitches in a varsity game.

The proposal comes as the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sets rules nationally, announced in July that states must adopt a pitch count rule for the 2017 season.

Many medical professionals, including Dr. William Heinz — a Portland orthopedist and liaison to the MPA sports medicine committee — say pitch counts can help limit arm injuries.

NFHS is allowing each state to establish its own policy regarding pitch-count limits. Previously, Maine used an innings limit to determine a pitcher’s availability.

Under the baseball committee’s proposal, varsity pitchers throwing between 96 and 110 pitches will be required to have four days of rest before they can take the mound again. Throwing between 66 and 95 pitches will require three days of rest, 40-65 pitches two days, and 21-39 pitches one day of rest. Pitchers throwing 20 or fewer pitches would be allowed to pitch on consecutive days. Sub-varsity pitchers would max out at 85 pitches in a game.

The MPA’s full membership will vote Nov. 17 on the proposal.

The committee used states that already have pitch counts, including Vermont and New York, as a guideline. While the committee quickly came to the 110-pitch maximum, debate centered around the amount of rest between games. Nick Caiazzo, president of the Maine Baseball Coaches Association, said four days of rest after throwing 110 pitches is a health concern, not a competitive one, and will force coaches to develop more pitchers rather than rely on one or two aces to throwing the majority of innings in a season.

“The level of play might go down a little bit,” Caiazzo said. “Teams with a dominant pitcher would not be able to throw their ace as much… If you’re going to win a state championship you should have the best team, not the best pitcher.”

Erskine baseball coach Lars Jonassen, a liaison to the baseball committee, said he’s in favor of four days rest, but added that coaches would also like more time in preseason to develop pitchers.

Speaking via conference call, Mike Lane, assistant principal at Sacopee Valley High School, said he expects the committee to get pushback from coaches, but it will fade as they adjust to the new rule.

“Over time, it’s going to become normal and that’s what we’ll be used to,” Lane said.

Brewer High School athletic director David Utterback said he spoke to Forest Hills athletic director Anthony Amero, who expressed concerns the small schools have with a pitch count rule. Small schools typically have fewer players from which to choose, which means fewer pitchers available. With Class D schools playing more doubleheaders than larger schools, a pitch count and required rest could make finding available pitchers difficult for some teams.

“Four days would be tough for them. Class D’s argument is very relevant,” Utterback said.

In addressing how to handle pitch count for doubleheaders, the committee took the suggestion of Leavitt High School assistant principal Derek Galway. If a pitcher throws 20 or fewer pitches in the opener of a doubleheader, he may return to the mound in the second game for a maximum of 90 pitches. If the pitcher throws more than 20 pitches in game one, he is subject to one day of rest.

Much discussion was spent on enforcing the new rule and keeping track of pitches during a game. The committee looked at forms used in other states. Teams will designate a scorekeeper or coach to meet with a representative from the opposing team each inning to make sure pitch counts are monitored correctly. In the event of a dispute, the umpire will mediate, with the home team book being the official count. As is the rule now with the innings limit rule, a team found in violation of the pitch count rule will forfeit the game.

MPA assistant executive director Mike Burnham said the MPA will keep track of pitch counts during the state tournaments, but each team will be responsible for the job during the regular season. Burnham said Vermont Principals’ Association officials back that system.

“Vermont goes with the honor system during the season. They have not gotten involved with a dispute to date,” Burnham said.

For the purpose of this rule, a pitch is considered any throw addressed to the batter. If a balk is called, the pitch will not count. The committee also made recommendations to go along with the new rules. The committee suggests middle schools in Maine adopt a maximum of 85 pitches per game, and for high school players to avoid playing catcher when not pitching, to limit stress on the arm.

The MPA sports medicine committee is scheduled to meet Nov. 10, a week before the vote by the entire membership. The baseball committee added it’s eager to hear any input or suggestions in the meantime.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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