The tradition rich Jesuit-Rummel baseball rivalry took things to a whole new level in Friday's extra inning game at Jesuit's John Ryan Stadium.
The game saw 501 pitches thrown, took over four hours to complete and lasted 18 innings, making it one of the longest prep baseball games ever played in the New Orleans area.
It was easily the longest Jesuit and Rummel game in the history of the rivalry, which dates back to the late 1960s.
In a contest that was tied 1-1 for 13 innings, Jesuit finally scored in the bottom of the 18th inning on Spencer Miller's two out single which plated courtesy runner Michael Cusimano, who was running after Jesuit catcher Matt Robert doubled. This instant classic, which was played in front of a standing room only crowd at Jesuit's John Ryan Stadium, will surely be talked about for many years to come.
Despite the outstanding play on both sides, this game will mainly be a hot topic of conversation because of the final pitch counts for the two starting pitchers.
Jesuit starter Emerson Gibbs threw 15 innings and 193 pitches while Rummel starter Mitchell Sewald threw 10 innings and 154 pitches for a combined total of 347 pitches. Remember, those totals do not include the warm up pitches that were thrown in the bull pen prior to the game and those thrown in between innings. If you factor those into the totals, you are looking at over 300 total pitches for Gibbs and over 200 for Sewald.
Both pitchers will play major college baseball next year, Gibbs at Tulane for Coach Rick Jones and Sewald at LSU for Coach Paul Maineiri. They are both highly talented at what they do and it was never more evident than on Friday night. But the question remains, how many pitches should a high school pitcher throw in one game? What number is in the best long term interest of the player and the health of his arm?
This game between Jesuit and Rummel has even received national attention from Yahoo Sports as Dallas Jackson, the senior analyst for RivalsHigh, immediately wrote an article entitled "Two pitchers combine to throw 347 pitches in one game."
In this article, Dr. James Andrews, the nation's leading orthopedic surgeon, recommends no more than 105 pitches for players between 17 and 18 years of age. Steve Frey, a former major league pitcher and current high school coach at IMG Academy in Florida, said "It is outrageous. It's off the charts. I really don't know how to respond to those numbers" when told about the pitch count totals for the starters in Friday night's game between the Blue Jays and Raiders.
Locally, former major league pitcher and college baseball coach, Kirk Bullinger, who served as a TV broadcast analyst during the game said, "it was way beyond what a pitcher should be allowed to throw at any level. Both teams should have went to their bullpen much sooner. The coaches have to make that decision for the player because any competitor is not going to tell you that he wants to come out of a close game. The health of the players should always trump wins and losses."
Bullinger went on to mention that the state of Florida actually has a state wide pitch count rule for high school baseball and this should be implemented in Louisiana. Bullinger feels that somewhere between 85-100 pitches should be the maximum amount allowed at the high school level.
Personally, I have always been weary of the 100 pitch mark for my starting pitchers and usually start looking to the bullpen around the starter's 80-90 pitch mark. There are obviously factors that must be considered along with the pitch count such as - Is he a high velocity pitcher or a spot up, soft tosser? Have his pitches been made in pressure situations or has he been easily retiring hitters?
This all helps determine how much stress has been placed on the pitcher's arm but with that being said, once the 100 pitch mark is hit, that should be about it, and we move on to the next guy. This is why it is so important to develop a pitching staff and not just rely on a couple of arms to take you through a long, competitive season.
In 1990, the National Federation of State High School Associations mandated that all states impose pitching restrictions. In 2010, effective for the 2011 season, the New York City Department of Education, which operates the City's public high school competitive sports program, implemented a pitch count rule to limit injuries to arms from overuse. The rule in New York City is 90 pitches in a game for junior varsity and 105 for varsity, if the pitcher hits this ceiling during an at bat, they are allowed to finish the at bat. Pitching limitations are also standard in various baseball organizations such as Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, USSSA, and AAU.
The American Sports Medicine Institute has issued the following recommendations concerning pitch counts -
Ages 8-10 Max of 52 Pitches
Ages 11-12 Max of 68 Pitches
Ages 13-14 Max of 76 Pitches
Ages 15-16 Max of 91 Pitches
Ages 17-18 Max of 106 Pitches
* Four days of rest is recommended after a pitcher reaches these totals.
The "pitch count" debate needs to end. It should be ended with a rule being put in place by the state's principals and athletic association, the LHSAA. This will help protect the health of student-athletes and keep coaches out of these uneasy situations. A state-wide pitch count rule would be a win-win for all involved and I can say with great certainty that it would have the backing of all college baseball coaches in Louisiana along with those in medical profession.
We must remain focused on the health and safety of the young men playing the game. The big picture must always mean more than short lived wins and losses. These two young men in question have earned the opportunity to play major college baseball and could earn the opportunity to play professionally some day. The health of their arms must be protected so that they can continue to dream of where their baseball careers may lead them.
***The Jesuit-Rummel game from Friday night will be televised at 8:00 PM on Monday night (4/16) as part of the First NBC Bank Prep Baseball Showcase on WHNO, Cox Channel 20.***
++Danny Riehm coaches the New Orleans Spice travel team and has served as an assistant coach at both the prep and college level locally.
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