Pitching depth will be one of the keys to success this year as Michigan adds new pitch count rule for baseball
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
We have to hit. It is that simple. Our team ERA was pretty good for how young we were last year. Our defense was pretty solid too. We have to hit. Our average was less than stellar last year and that was with two guys hitting over .430. Everyone else needs to rise to the challenge. I think we can do that.” – Bret Krabill, Grayling High School Varsity Baseball Coach
The varsity baseball team from Grayling High School started its official practices on March 13, and the squad – a group that has a large number of juniors – has a doubleheader slated for next week.
The squad’s original season opener scheduled for March 23 at Harrison was cancelled due to weather and field conditions. Now, the team’s first games are slated for Thursday, April 6, at 4 p.m. vs. Kingsley at GHS.
The Vikings practiced for two weeks prior to spring break. The sessions were mostly conducted inside the gym at Grayling High School. The players did limited throwing and defensive work outside on the football practice field for a couple of days before break, but the Vikings did not practice on the diamond.
It’s a challenge practicing inside for an outdoor sport. The baseball program focused on hitting and pitching during its first two weeks of practice.
“It is difficult to get live swings in. It can be hard to get the length of throws down and outfield is at a disadvantage with fly balls in the gym. Our biggest focus right now has been on getting swings ready, pitchers ready, and getting the next group of catchers ready,” Coach Bret Krabill said. “You always want to be outside. The guys are working hard and I like the format we have this year. We are getting more reps and seeing more results. I would expect that to continue as we get outside.”
During the offseason, players participated in pitching sessions. Players were also able to get a few swings in the batting cage.
“Every year we always have guys throwing. Especially with the new pitch count rule, everyone is now becoming a pitcher,” Coach Krabill said.
Michigan has new pitching rules this year for baseball. Teams have to keep track of pitch counts, and specific days of rest from pitching are required after reaching specific numbers: “76-105 pitches, three days of rest; 51-75 pitches, two days of rest; 26-50 pitches, one day of rest,” according to the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
Pitchers now have a maximum of 105 pitches per day.
Coach Krabill said he expected new pitching rules at some point, but was “surprised to see how quickly they were implemented.”
“I understand the thought on protecting arms and the health of kids. It might minimally alter what we do, but we have always made the health and safety of kids a top priority. It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the course of a season. If people don’t manage their top pitchers well, they risk having them only throw one game a week,” Coach Krabill said.
The varsity team lost one player for the season due to an injury during basketball season. Coach Krabill said this year’s squad has a mix of classes and good depth. Some players will move between JV and varsity during the season.
“We have strong numbers. We had 21 to begin with, but will be between 13 to 15 guys, depending on the day. We are pretty balanced in all classes. This year’s junior class is the largest single group I’ve had. Overall, our depth is good. We do have one injury which puts us in a bind, but I think we can cover it. JV also has strong numbers. They will carry around 13 guys, again, depending on the game,” Coach Krabill said.
“Depth is a strength. We have varsity level talent on JV, but so we can maximize swings and play time they are going to bounce between the teams. We have some solid pitching. Justin (Nicholas), Cam (Summers), Trey (Moffit), and Jacob (Macfalda) have registered varsity wins already,” Coach Krabill said.
The team’s focus with regard to improvement is hitting.
“We have to hit. It is that simple,” Coach Krabill said. “Our team ERA was pretty good for how young we were last year. Our defense was pretty solid too. We have to hit. Our average was less than stellar last year and that was with two guys hitting over .430. Everyone else needs to rise to the challenge. I think we can do that.”
Goals for the year? Get better and win games.
“The boys like winning. Most of them just got done with a very successful basketball season. I get the feeling they want to put some hardware on the shelves,” Coach Krabill said.
The Vikings finished at the bottom of the Lake Michigan Conference last year; they are hoping to turn that around this year.
“Everyone loves a bottom to top story. I would love to give them one. We lost 13 games by three runs or less. We weren’t quite sure how to win; we were young and inexperienced. Now, we look bigger, stronger, and faster. We will compete in every game we play. I don’t see anyone around that is going to be able to play us and run away with it,” Coach Krabill said.
“The conference is tough. Who plays who and when they play them are going to have a huge impact on standings. In the past, you could throw your top guy Monday and Thursday and be all set. Now, you throw your ace and he goes 76 pitches, he is ineligible to pitch Thursday. This favors us. We have always tried to have a deep roster of pitchers,” Coach Krabill said. “We could finish anywhere. I think teams will overlook us. I would warn them not to, but if we do what we are capable of doing, we’ll be just fine.”
For the postseason, Grayling is in District 67-3 with Houghton Lake, Lake City, Manton, and Roscommon.
“We have a very different district draw from past years. I think we can compete in it, but right now, on paper, Roscommon is the favorite. If we can get the hitting going we can close the gap and hopefully make some postseason noise. The draw will be huge as it determines who could be throwing against who,” Coach Krabill said.