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High School Highlights

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Steve Robinson

IHSA Adopts National Federation Of High Schools’ Rules Regarding Pitch Counts

If you’ve had a chance to attend a high school baseball game this season, a few rule changes and additions were put into effect that weren’t present last year. Some of the changes take place behind the scenes, between innings. Some of them affect how many innings pitchers can pitch and how long they must go between games.
Beginning this season, Illinois High School Association (IHSA) put into effect for its games rules established by National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS). IHSA pondered the changes last summer, and formally approved them in December for use beginning this season.
NFHS has guidelines which indicate how many days of rest pitchers must have after throwing a certain number of pitches. For instance, if a pitcher throws between 1-30 pitches, NFHS said the pitcher can pitch the next day. With up to every 30 pitches after that, a mandatory rest period is required. For example, a day of rest if up to 60 pitches are thrown. A pitcher needs two days rest if he threw up to 90 pitches in a game.
This scale requires up to four days’ rest if up to 105 pitches were thrown.
Also new this year, at the end of the game, “opposing coaches will get together and verify throwing numbers until they get the same numbers,” explained Sam Knox, assistant executive director for baseball for IHSA. That means coaches will be checking their pitch counts for each team every two innings.
Knox said once the game is over, coaches will then enter pitching numbers into IHSA’s computer system. As a result of that, Knox said, coaches will receive a “five-day forecast,” indicating to players what they would be allowed to do over the next five days in terms of participation.
Before such charting took place, Knox said, it was at a coach’s decision regarding how frequently a player pitched, or how many days’ rest he got.
“Many, many coaches were very good about taking care of a kid’s health,” Knox said. He added that a coach telling his player to rest the right amount of days after hurling 88 pitches was the norm, but “there was no structured system” for the coaches to follow. IHSA adopting NFHS’ rules put a structured system in place, Knox added.
The new rules keep coaches from arbitrarily deciding the number of rest days for a player, Knox explained. Before the rules were put into place, coaches could make their own determination on needed rest days. Now the rest days needed are cut and dried based on the number of pitches thrown.
Knox said by rule, the teams playing a game have one minute to change sides at the end of every half-inning. He said IHSA believes coaches can double-check their pitch counts at the end of every even-numbered inning in the time it takes for the teams to change sides.
Knox said IHSA anticipates “it won’t take longer than a minute” for coaches to double-check pitch counts. “I don’t think fans will notice anything about the pace of the game,” he added.
“Preventing arm injuries is the goal of this policy,” Knox said, adding that kids pitch more because, in addition to being on their high school team, they participate in summer travel leagues, too.
I tried contacting local coaches from large and small schools and got a couple of responses. I did not hear from University High head coach Steve Paxson, however.
“I think it’s good that the National Federation and IHSA had adapted pitch count and rest requirements this year,” Normal Community High School head coach Ryan Short wrote me in an email. “At a big school, we are fortunate to have a lot of players who can pitch and many who spend time in the offseason preparing for the spring and summer baseball seasons. I sympathize with coaches at schools who have to navigate the rules with fewer pitchers.
“I think it will be interesting to see how the required in-game communication transpires between teams about pitch count,” Short added. “We have been planning how we will carefully keep track so there is not a long delay while teams compare pitch counts.” He wrote that part of that preparation may mean an assistant coach may take the reins at counting pitches beginning this season, a job that in the past had been some players’ regular duty during games.
“I don’t feel the new rules will affect Normal West too often because of how we’ve done things,” said Wildcats head coach Chris Hawkins. “But the pitch count check will be a strange dynamic to see with coaches together during the game. The rules are trying to protect kids. That’s a good thing.”
I have yet to get to a baseball game at the high school level this year, and will curious to see how this works under the new IHSA rules. I will be even more curious to see if, after this year, IHSA does any tweaking of the rules based on how things go this season. I am also still curious as to how small school coaches feel they are affected by the new rules or felt they would be affected before the season began. If I get any additional feedback on this subject, I will bring readers an update.

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Statement from MVC Commissioner Elgin on Wichita State departure
The Missouri Valley Conference has undergone many changes in membership throughout our 110-year history, and the news today of Wichita State University’s departure brings us to another stage in the evolution of our league. The Valley has always been resilient and progressive in the face of these changes, and we have never been defined by a single institution.  
We now have an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to competitive excellence and to a continuing investment in athletics.  We have strong campus leadership – our Presidents Council has always been responsive and decisive when called upon to chart the future course of our conference.  We have a membership process in place and we will be very deliberate in taking appropriate steps to provide the best opportunities to grow and strengthen our league.  We will not waver in our determination to put our student-athletes and teams in the best possible position to compete on the national stage.
The MVC and our campus personnel will not be discussing our plans or our intentions until we have made important decisions and have taken steps to address our current membership issues.

Zach Copeland Signs with ISU Men’s Basketball
Zach Copeland, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound sophomore guard from the City College of San Francisco has signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) to join the Illinois State men’s basketball team, ISU head coach Dan Muller announced Wednesday. Copeland will begin his Redbird career as a junior in 2017-18, with two years of eligibility remaining.
“We are excited to welcome Zach Copeland into the Redbird basketball program,” Muller said. “Zach is a big-time offensive player who is a threat at all times on the court. He is a lights-out shooter, a terrific finisher and will only get better. The thing I like most about Zach is his competitiveness. He competes on the defensive end and loves to take big shots. Coach Justin Labagh did a great job with Zach the past two years, and we can’t wait to get him here and continue developing him. Zach will be a fun and exciting player for Redbird fans to watch over the next two years.”
Copeland averaged 18.7 points per game while connecting on 103-of-216 (47.7 percent) shots from beyond the arc and 169-of-344 (49.1 percent) from the field as a sophomore at the City College of San Francisco. The Oakland, California, native shot 156-for-181 (86.2 percent) at the free throw line and averaged 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game while starting 30-of-32 contests. Copeland recorded double-digit scoring in 30 out of 32 games, including 12 contests with 30 or more points. He netted a season-high 36 points versus Las Positas College (Jan. 18).
As a senior, Copeland helped lead the City College of San Francisco to the Coast-North Conference regular-season title with an 11-1 league mark and a 29-3 overall record. For his efforts, Copeland was named Coast-North Conference Player of the Year and the California Community Colleges Men’s Basketball Coaches Association Co-Player of the Year. With the No. 1 seed in the playoffs at stake and the Rams tied with Ohlone with less than three seconds remaining, Copeland found open space off of a screen and nailed a game-winning three-point shot (Feb. 17). CCSF advanced to the CCCAA Championships Semifinal.
As a freshman, Copeland led the Rams to the 2016 California Community College Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship by scoring a game-high 18 points in the title game against Saddleback College. During the 2015-16 season, Copeland averaged 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game.
Copeland graduated from Berkeley (California) High School where he helped the Yellowjackets to a state championship in 2015.

Lee Earns AP All-America Honorable Mention
llinois State senior guard Paris Lee is an Associated Press All-America Honorable mention selection, marking the first such honor for a Redbird since Tarise Bryson also earned honorable mention recognition in 2001.
Lee is one of 15 players in ISU men’s basketball history to garner All-America honors. The 2016-17 AP All-America team was selected by the 65-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25. Votes were based on player accomplishments throughout the regular season and conference tournaments. Lee was the lone Missouri Valley Conference selection on the AP All-America list.
 The 2017 MVC Larry Bird Player of the Year and MVC Defensive Player of the Year, Lee is the nation’s active career steals leader and holds ISU’s program record, with 248 steals, and ranks fourth in ISU career assists, with 495.
Lee led the MVC and ranks 50th nationally in both steals (1.9) and assists (5.0) per game. The Maywood, Illinois, native ranked first on the team and second in league three-point field goals made (2.3) per game. Lee also ranked second on the team and 10th in MVC scoring, with 13.0 points per game, and he led the team and ranked ninth in MVC free throw shooting percentage (78.4 percent).
As a senior, Lee started all 35 games to set the program career starts record (132), and he ranks 21st on Illinois State’s career scoring list, with 1,268 points. He is the second player in Redbird history to earn 1,000 points, 400 assists and 200 steals.
Along with his MVC Player and Defensive Player of the Year accolades, Lee was an All-MVC First-Team selection, an MVC All-Defensive Team selection and an MVC All-Tournament Team selection. He also garnered All-National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 16 First-Team accolades.

Central Illinois Multi-Sport Expo to be May 1 in Uptown Normal
The Central Illinois Multisport Expo will be held at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Uptown Normal, Monday, May 1 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:0 p.m.
This free event is open to all and is sponsored by the Tri-Shark Triathlon Club*. Attendees may demo running and cycling products, sample nutritional items, purchase gear and apparel, meet local triathlon, cycling, and running club members, and learn about upcoming events and races.
What’s more, there are door prizes and give-aways!
Visit our website at http://
cimultisportexpo.com/ or follow us on FaceBook Central Illinois Multi-Sport Expo.
*The Club’s mission is to promote all aspects of the multisport lifestyle to athletes of all ages and abilities in Central Illinois. Members of the club seek to provide a fun and supportive team environment that assists each member in achieving his or her personal goals.


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