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Okawville High senior Josh Madrid never had the opportunity to pitch the past two seasons.

That's because the Rockets, who finished third in Class 1A last spring, had more than enough arms.

But the game has changed.

Now that both Illinois and Missouri have instituted a new pitch-count rule, Madrid and other potential inning-eaters will become as valuable as starters and relievers.

"He didn't really fit the mold that we were looking for as a pitcher," Okawville coach Jackie Smith said. "He was a kid that, under no pitch count rule, would have probably never thrown for us. We're going to get some good innings out of him (this season)." 

Madrid's situation is just an example of what some schools across the area are doing to adjust as both the Illinois High School Association and the Missouri State High School Activities Association have implemented a new pitch-count rule to help protect pitchers from arm injuries.

Last year, Missouri had a limit of 10 innings per week and Illinois had no limitations.

Now, pitchers in Missouri who throw 76-105 pitches will be unavailable to pitch for four days. Illinois requires four days of rest as well, and the pitcher will not be allowed to throw the maximum of 105 until the fifth day. 

In Illinois, a pitcher who throws 30 or fewer pitches is available to pitch the next day with a maximum of 90 pitches. Pitchers who throw 45 pitches in a game are required to take a day of rest before they are available to throw again. At 60 pitches, those pitchers will be required to rest for two days, and at 75 pitches, that player will be required to rest for three days.

In the postseason, the required days of rest do not change, but the max pitches a pitcher is available to throw is still 105.

In even-numbered innings and at the end of the game, coaches are required to compare pitch counts to verify the totals. If there is a discrepancy, the totals will be averaged and rounded up and that will be the official count sent to the governing bodies.

In Missouri, pitch counts and required days of rest are the same, but unlike Illinois, pitchers in Missouri that are available will be available for the full 105 pitches.

Teams will compare and sign off on the numbers. If there is a discrepancy, the home team's count will be official and will be reported to MSHSAA within 24 hours of the game.

If no pitch count is reported, the team will incur a fine.

For some schools, like defending Class 5 champion Francis Howell, the new rules will not pose a problem.

"I don't think it'll affect us," Howell coach Tony Perkins said. "We have 14 guys who can pitch, so it doesn't affect us as much. But what it will affect is the smaller schools who don't have as many arms."

Teams the size of Francis Howell, Fort Zumwalt West, O'Fallon and Edwardsville are in position to accommodate the new pitch count rule with deep pitching staffs.

But the new rule has made some teams, like DuBourg, plan a little differently.

"If you are Class 3 or smaller, you're going to have a tough time with this," DuBourg coach Joe Groening said. "If you have a baseball program that has a freshman, JV and varsity that carries 20 on each team, you might have eight or nine pitchers. But for us, we have shortstops, catchers or first basemen that are also pitchers."

With the impending changes coming, Alton coach Todd Haug sought out a pitching coach to help run his pitching staff. He found one in Dennis Sharp.

Sharp has run the American Legion program and has been familiar with the pitch count rules.

"What I did early was chart everything out and I told Todd that my starter wouldn't go over three innings or 45 pitches," Sharp said. "I'm basically trying to stage the year where I'm two, three, possibly four deep. I never counted on just one or two horses."

With the new change, some schools that don't have pitching depth are in the process of developing that depth.

But they have not ruled out the possibility of limiting their schedule to give their pitchers the appropriate amount of rest.

"With four games in a week, those Saturday doubleheaders will go by the wayside with these smaller schools just because they don't have the pitching number," Smith said. "We're fortunate that we have 27 kids in our program, but it hasn't always been like that. We're developing everyone in our program as a pitcher because it makes a difference."

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