Mercy rule being considered for Section II baseball

When the Section II baseball coaches meet March 5 they will have a big decision to make — to accept or reject the 10-run “mercy” rule passed earlier this month by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee to adopted a 10-run rule for high school baseball on a two-year trial period stating a game would end after five innings if a team is leading by 10 or more runs — or after 4 1/2 innings if the home team is leading.

“In June at the state baseball meeting, the mercy rule came up and we wanted to also extend the season from 20 to 22 games,” Section II Baseball Coordinator and Gloversville baseball coach Mike DeMagistris said “That went to the committee and the extra games were voted down when the committee reconvened in January. It will happen in the regional and state play but not for tournament or regular season play yet.”

That will be decided at the March 5 meeting. If the rule is accepted by the committee it will be passed on to be voted on by the eight leagues in Section II.

“There is not a lot of support for it here [Section II],” DeMagistris said. “”We’re only allowed to play 140 innings of baseball in a five-week season. It really makes no sense to make the season any shorter than it already is.”

The state committee stated the Run Rule will have a saving impact on pitch counts and the number of pitchers that are used in games when there is a lack of competitiveness and a run rule will improve the quality of the sport.

“Ten runs isn’t a lot to come back from,” DeMagistris said. “The beauty of baseball is that the 21st out is the hardest one to get. In other sports, no one is saying to stop blowouts that can’t be overcome. Soccer games are 8-0 and are not called. Football games reach 70-0, basketball 60-5. But we’re going to stop a baseball game that is 10-0?”

DeMagistris said that there is also a belief, that if adopted, it could alter the way coaches approach games.

“It could lead to coaches taking more chances to put big scores up early to reach the cutoff point,” he said. “It also could come into play if during a week one team has an extra-inning game and the other has a couple of shortened games. They will have an advantage as far as pitchers and rested players go.”

The proposed rule comes a year after the committee put a pitch count in effect in 2017.

“The pitch count rule was intended to help teams develop more players, DeMagistris said. “In a game that might be 10-0 in the fourth inning and all of a sudden 4 1/2 innings and the game’s over, how do you get kids in the game? High school is education-based athletic and we don’t want our kids to quit. We’re trying to teach our kids aspects of the game, and that’s going to be taken away from us if this is voted in.”

DeMagistris pointed out that there is already a way to stop a game that has gotten out of hand.

“Article 4, Section 4 of the NFHS rules says that the two coaches and the umpire can mutually agree to end the game at any point,” he said. “Baseball is not a free substitution sport. Unless it is a starter you cannot re-enter a player like other sports. Even with big leads, teams will hold runners at third on scoring opportunities and have strategies to purposely run into outs to keep the game going and get players time on the field.”

Practice for the high school spring sports season is scheduled to begin on March 5.