Buckner, Pharr react to new TSSAA Pitch Count rule

High school pitchers are limited to a specific maximum number of pitches thrown in regards to days of rest in-between, thanks to a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association rule beginning with the 2017 season.

Passed last November, TSSAA Pitching Policy includes the following:

• a varsity high school pitcher can throw no more than 120 pitches in one day.

• after appearing the previous day, a varsity pitcher can come back the next day and throw up to 25 pitches.

• a varsity player cannot pitch three days in a row regardless of number of pitches thrown.

• with one day of rest, a varsity pitcher can throw up to 55 pitches; with two days of rest up to 75; with three days of rest up to 119, and four days up to 120.

• However, if a pitcher exceeds any end number while working a batter and is removed from the mound after finishing that batter, only the first pitch thrown to that batter will apply toward the total pitch count for purposes of days of rest.

• In case of disagreement between opposing coaches, the home team’s count will be the final accepted count.

• Pitch count applies to regular season and postseason.

Matt Buckner, Farragut High School head coach, has effectively dealt with “short rest” pitching issues in the Class AAA state tournament, having earned a state berth in each of his first seven seasons as Admirals skipper — with three state titles (2010, 2011 and 2014) and two runner-up finishes (2013 and 2015).

“I figured eventually that would come into effect,” Buckner said. “… For me I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot from what I do, even with the restrictions.

“It might have some effect in the post season more than it will in the regular season. The only time I’ve ever thrown guys on short rest is in the post season. In the regular season I hardly ever throw guys under four or five days rest,” he added.

However, “The state tournament is a four-day tournament. It’s way too compacted. … I would be in favor of spreading out the tournament.”

Buckner referred to Siegel, 2016 Class AAA state champ, which had to win six games in four days.

The bottom line is simple. “It’s going to favor the teams with more pitchers,” Buckner said. “Hopefully that will be to our advantage. It may not be now, we’re pretty young this year.

“In the past it would have really worked to our advantage.”

Tommy Pharr, Buckner’s mentor and former boss, led Farragut to five state titles during his time as Admirals skipper [1998-2009].

A former major college assistant coach at Baylor University, Pharr is beginning his 26th season as a high school head coach — eighth at Christian Academy of Knoxville, where he captured the 2014 Class AA state crown.

“I think it’s a good thing. … I think the only place it could come into play is in the state tournament,” Pharr said about the new rule. “I think most schools and most coaches already fall into that. ... I just think it holds people a little bit more accountable.

“It’s probably a little bit tougher on smaller schools.”

Pharr also said adding one extra day at the state tournament “would be nice, to finish on Saturday. I think it would allow teams to use their best guy and not put him in any danger.”