Baseball, softball coaches suggest changes to improve high school game

Sunday, April 25, 2021 | 11:01 AM

The games of baseball and softball have many nuances — many rules and regulations, many intangibles.

Each can be a game of inches — a double down the third-base line — or a game of feet — a towering home run over the fence.

People who follow the sports as adults usually grow up playing and competing in the games and developing a deep interest in their advancement.

And that applies to probably none moreso than managers and coaches, who devote a large portion of their life helping develop athletes into bonafide ballplayers. That is the hope, at least.

With that in mind, area high school coaches were asked the following question: If you were appointed commissioner of baseball for the WPIAL, are there any changes that you would immediately make that you believe would be for the betterment of the game?

The responses proved interesting.

Pat Zehnder, Bethel Park baseball

I would consider making the following changes: One, make the playoffs a best-of-three series, and two, get rid of the third-first pickoff move. (It isn’t allowed in the NCAA or Major League Baseball).

Technically, the third-first pickoff where the pitcher can fake a pick-off move to third and turn around and possibly catch the man at first base stealing second. In MLB and the NCAA, as soon as the pitcher picks up his lead foot, he either has to throw the ball home, to the base he is currently facing, or he can also turn and throw to second base.

Also, I think it would be in high school baseball’s best interest to move the season back to mid-March or even the beginning of April.

Steve Bucci, Baldwin baseball

I think the first thing I would do for the teams is make more meaningful games, so instead of playing 10 section games, we could play as many as 15. I can’t understand why we play as many exhibition games as section games.

The next item I would do is put the classification back to four classes, not six. I would also have all-star games between sections. An example of this would be that in Class 6A, Section 1 would play Section 2. It makes for fun for the boys who have played against each other all spring to actually play together on an all-star team. The team that wins a section would coach it. The coaches in the section would together select the team. The last thing I would do is give everybody a 25-game cap instead of 20 as the WPIAL has now.

Tim Vickers, Thomas Jefferson baseball

While it wouldn’t be a change at all, I feel It’s worth mentioning. I absolutely love the new Monday-Tuesday section game format.

While this year (before and during the covid-19 pandemic) may not have made the preparation aspect ideal, I feel the attention given to pitchers will benefit all. What I mean is schools are going to be forced to develop as many pitchers as possible, which in turn should promote arm care for elite arms.

Mike Wagner, Seton LaSalle baseball

I’d make it available for teams to move up yearly instead of every other year. For example, I wanted to move up and play 3A or 4A baseball this year, but everything went by the wayside this year. I have asked to move up next year and I’m not allowed. They say I have to wait another year.

In the meantime, I’m winning section games by 20 runs and it’s not fun. I seek out to play 6A and 5A schools, but most won’t play us because they are afraid to lose.

As for the day-to-day games, there really isn’t anything glaring right now. I like the pitch-count rules for safety. I like the new section format of back-to-back games to make things more competitive.

I’d like to implement a six-team playoff of all the WPIAL champions after the state playoffs conclude — or maybe before the state playoffs — to crown the true WPIAL champion. I think that would be neat. You can do that in baseball but not so much the other sports where size matters.

Gina Fuchs, Baldwin softball

One thing that I would like to see is the WPIAL playoffs not have so many days between games. I don’t really know how the brackets are set up, but I know in 2019 for 6A, it was like six or seven days between rounds. I don’t feel like that’s a playoff-type atmosphere.

Also, just a side note, the WPIAL championships always seem to coincide with the D1 dead period. I think having local schools like Pitt and RMU at your championships is a big deal to continue to grow our sport in Western Pennsylvania. I know a lot goes into planning the playoffs, so there may be a reason for it, but if it can be changed, I think it would make for a more fun and exciting playoff.

Also, I would love for the season to be moved to the fall. Spring weather in Western Pennsylvania is basically winter, and there’s too much rain for most of the schools that don’t have turf. I know this probably would have to be a change on the PIAA level, but it doesn’t hurt to push for it.

Heidi Karcher, Thomas Jefferson softball

Moving up the start of the season to late March due to weather. Make the rounds of the playoffs much shorter in terms of time. Most of the high school teams have girls that play travel and are use to multiple games in a weekend. There’s too much time between Game 1 and Game 2 in the playoff rounds.

Kyle Nicholson, Bethel Park baseball assistant

For me, I would love to see the playoff format change from a single game to a three-game series. The higher seed would be the host for Game 1. The lower seed would host Game 2. Game 3 would be a neutral site.

Also, I’m hopeful that the schedule continues to resemble the 2021 scheduling where we play the section opponent on back-to-back nights, then a nonsection opponent later in the week.

Greg Perdziola, Brentwood baseball

I think having three umpires, as they do for the playoffs, would help a lot. However, there is a shortage of umpires already, and it would mean more money (spent) by the school districts.

Brian Vogel, Seton LaSalle baseball assistant

I really like the change this year with the back-to-back (games), and think a best-of-three, at least for championship, would be great. I also really like the new (designated player) rule, and I would extend the total for games allowed.

The DP rule is similar to the DH rule; it is built for the pitcher but can be used for any player. If you designate a player as the DP, he can be pulled from the field defensively but still remain in the batting lineup.

Skylar Meier, Thomas Jefferson softball assistant

I would have to agree with Heidi on making sure there was not a significant amount of time off between the regular season and playoffs. We may need that extra time to fit in games. We did spend a recent season having days off and multiple scrimmages before playing a playoff game. I do feel like that hurt us and slowed down any positive momentum we’d built.

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