OHSAA could vote June 1 whether to extend the baseball and softball seasons

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio High School Athletic Association board of directors could vote June 1 on a proposal that would extend the baseball and softball seasons by two weeks starting in 2019.

OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass told WCPO.com he recommended the board approve the measure for 2019 and not 2018 because of scheduling reasons if it is approved.

The proposal was formally presented to the OHSAA board of directors April 6.

"I’m glad they are moving forward with it," Moeller baseball coach Tim Held said. "I think it will be better for the pitchers and will allow more competitive games throughout the season and it will also allow us to practice during our season."

There are also a few stipulations with the proposal, including the willingness to include softball.

“The reason for this is that so many schools schedule their baseball and softball games at the same sites for transportation reasons,” Snodgrass said. “Going away from that could be expensive to schools and a scheduling dilemma.”

Another fact to consider is having the district and regional sites available two weeks later than usual.

Snodgrass is confident the softball coaches’ association would like to see a change due to weather reasons.

The baseball proposal arrived entirely out of the pitch count, which was put in place by the OHSAA this spring.

The OHSAA implemented a National Federation of State High School Association rule that limits baseball pitchers to 125 pitches daily.

The reasoning for the proposal is small schools with fewer players on the roster have a more difficult time allowing rest for their pitchers when they are required to have at least one day off having thrown 30 or more pitches in a game.

Increasing the number of available game dates may offer additional protection for the player but may also allow more opportunities for schools to utilize their pitchers while also developing younger players.

Rain has postponed numerous games this spring, and that adds to the complications of scheduling.

Tom Neubert, president of the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association, believes the proposal will pass June 1. Neubert is athletic director and baseball coach at Columbus St. Francis DeSales.

“(Extending the season) was even proposed before the rotten weather of this season started,” Snodgrass said.

Spring is the shortest of the three high school sports seasons in Ohio. Baseball teams are allowed to play 27 games within the 42 days allotted.

Compared to surrounding states, Ohio has the shortest length of season to play the permitted number of games.

Lakota West Athletic Director Scott Kaufman understands the rationale of why the coaches want the change, but he’s hoping the state’s athletic directors are surveyed before a final decision is made.

“Personally, I do not support extending the baseball season,” said Kaufman, who serves on the Southwest District Athletic Board.

“Going into mid-June, when most school years are ending in mid-May now, is a bit much for me.”

The 2019 season for baseball and softball is scheduled to start March 23 with or without the adjustment. The ending date would be the state tournament June 13-15.

This year’s state baseball tournament is scheduled for June 1-3 at Huntington Park in Columbus. Huntington Park, the home of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, has been the state baseball tournament venue since June 2009.

The state softball tournament is scheduled the same weekend in June at Firestone Stadium in Akron.

The proposal for the 2019 season essentially extends the season two weeks. Even though most of the tournament games would be pushed back, it would open the season up more to permit regular-season games right up until the end of May (even though that’s permitted currently).

“Most (teams) simply do not do that now once the tournament begins -- they are either knocked out or just lose interest with the tournament underway,” Snodgrass said.

Mason softball coach Liann Muff can see the merits of extending the softball season. The Comets, a 2016 Division I state semifinalist, play 18 Greater Miami Conference games which leaves only nine non-conference games. 

"We try to play the toughest non-conference schedule possible and when these games are postponed due to weather or bumped for league games it weakens our schedule leading to the postseason," Muff said. "We are very motivated to get these games in even if we are also playing in the tournament."

Muff said the downside of extending the season is playing outside the school year. Mason's seniors graduate May 21 and the rest of the students are finished May 25. 

"It has been our experience that our team enjoys being out of school and continuing to progress in the tournament," Muff said. "They just don't want their season to end."

The OHSAA Board of Directors is expected to vote June 1 on whether seven divisions of football teams will compete in the playoffs Friday night too.

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