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Baseball rule change shouldn't be a problem for area teams

Douglas Fritz • Jul 9, 2018 at 8:16 PM

A change to the pitcher’s starting point on the mound for the 2019 high school baseball season doesn’t appear it will have much of an impact locally.

In its recent meeting, the National Federation of State High School Associations Baseball Rules Committee eliminated the requirement for the entire pivot foot to be in contact with the pitcher’s plate. The rationale behind the rule change was listed as “pitchers typically having difficulty consistently making contact with the pitcher’s plate when pivoting.”

“The committee concluded that many pitching mounds are such that it is problematic for a pitcher to have his entire pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate,” said Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and student services and staff liaison for baseball. “Therefore, no advantage is gained by having some of the pivot foot not in direct contact with the pitcher’s plate.”

Unicoi County head coach Chad Gillis said he doesn’t think the rule change will be noticeable in Northeast Tennessee.

“I have seen kids not make (complete) contact with the rubber, but I have never seen it called by an umpire,” said Gillis. “As long as some contact with the rubber is required, I don’t see it as being a negative. I would see a problem not requiring any contact because the kids could change the distance at which they are pitching from. It would just be inches, but that could give an advantage to the pitcher.”

Science Hill head coach Ryan Edwards said he doesn’t see any problems arising from the new rule. However, he said a similar change was made a few years ago that did require adjustments for his team.

“Some parts of the state were enforcing it and some weren’t,” said Edwards. “We had to make a change with (Grant) Rabbitts because he was starting outside of the extended line (from the pitcher’s plate to home plate). We adjusted it in the preseason. This (new rule) doesn’t seem like it’s anything to worry about.”

Participation levels

According to the 2016-17 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, there are 491,790 boys participating in baseball at 15,979 schools across the country. Also, there are 1,145 girls playing the sport in 269 schools.

According to the same survey, there are 367,405 girls participating in fast-pitch softball at 15,440 schools.

Softball rules

Four changes were made at the recent NFHS meeting. Included in the mix is allowing an eye shield to be attached to the face-head protection — only if it is constructed of a molded, rigid material that is clear and permits 100 percent (no tint) allowable light transmission.

Another change is a clarification that allows a softball bat to have an adjustable knob, provided the knob is permanently fastened by the manufacturer. Any devices, attachments or wrappings that cause the knob to become flush with the handle are also permitted.

Also approved by the committee, an illegal pitch is limited to the batter being awarded a ball. Previously, the batter was awarded a ball and all base runners were also awarded one base without liability to be put out.

“The new language creates more balance between offense and defense,” said Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and staff liaison for softball. “In NFHS softball rules, the illegal pitch is designed to deceive the batter and, therefore, only the batter should receive the award.”

Another change is a clarification that the media area must be located in dead-ball territory.

“Requiring the media area to be located in dead-ball territory minimizes risk and continues efforts to improve the safety of participants, officials, fans and other essential personnel,” said Searcy.

Coaching announcements

Tennessee High chose Jenn Testa as its new head softball coach.

Testa comes to the Lady Vikings after 11 years as head coach at King University. Testa guided the Tornado program to two NCAA Southeast Regional appearances and four 30-win seasons, including a school-record 36 win in 2018. She totaled 200 career wins.

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Sullivan East made its choice for volleyball. Tracy Graybeal will be announced as the Lady Patriots’ head coach Tuesday at the high school cafeteria.

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