PORT ARTHUR — Pitch counts are here to stay. The days of Nolan Ryan or Bob Gibson throwing 160 pitches in a single game are long gone.
Starting about a decade ago, teams started worrying about how many pitches were being thrown by starters. Because of links to injuries, pitch counts are watched and regulated in Little League now. But, it doesn’t stop there. After his first start against Colorado, Houston Astros starter Bud Norris said during postgame interviews that his manager and pitching coach started worrying about him before he’d even gotten to 100 pitches.
All of that is why it was at least curious on the surface when Nederland head coach Cody Robbins said he wasn’t worried at all about his starter Brett Brown in Tuesday’s Mid-County Madness game. That means he wasn’t worried when Brown crossed 100 pitches or cruised all the way up to the 120-pitch mark where he ended the game.
“At this point in the season, I’m not really worried about him,” Robbins said. “He’s been conditioning well and he never looked like he was laboring. I’m very protective of my pitchers, and if I see them laboring, I get them out of there quickly.”
That last part is what puts Robbins at the front of what we know about pitcher injuries and pitch counts. As more studies are done on pitching injuries, the accepted theory is it’s not the actual number of pitches, but how many pitches he threw under duress.
Those could come at any time in a game, but what Robbins referred to as “laboring” is exactly what can lead to problems. For young pitchers, the risk of injury rises when they aren’t able to maintain proper mechanics or when they try and overthrow. Both of those things can happen easily if a pitcher gets tired.
Brown never looked to be doing either of those things against PN-G. He’s a strikeout pitcher, which automatically raises his potential pitch count, but as long as he’s repeating his mechanics well and not putting more than a normal amount of strain on his arm, Robbins was probably justified in leaving him in the game.
We still don’t know much about the biomechanics of pitching injuries. What we do know is that it goes deeper than a simple pitch count, but that’s a lesson Robbins appears to already know.
Game of the Week
You can’t get bigger than the matchup between No. 3 Little Cypress-Mauriceville and the Nederland softball team on Tuesday. The Lady Bulldogs haven’t lost since the last matchup with LC-M, which ended the first half of district play.
What makes the game even bigger is that Nederland trails the Lady Bears by just one game in the standings, meaning a win here could give the Lady Bulldogs a share of the district title. That’s because of a pretty remarkable run by Nederland, as they’ve won six straight after falling to 4-3 in 20-4A.
LC-M now has two losses during its district run, but both of them came against PN-G. The last matchup saw the Lady Bears beat Nederland 4-3 at home. Since then? Nederland has only given up four runs total in the next six games.
Crazy Stat of the Week
The Bridge City baseball team has risen all the way up to No. 3 in the state-wide polls. A big reason for that may be this week’s craziest stat I’ve seen.
Bridge City has only given up two runs in seven district games. Two. That’s a whole lot of shutout innings. It’s also why the Cards are a good bet to make a serious run in this year’s state playoffs. With that kind of pitching staff, Bridge City should be a matchup nightmare in both a three-game series or a one-game playoff.
With starter Jayce Nelson tiring in the bottom of the seventh Tuesday night, PN-G head coach Mark Brevell had a choice. Does he bring in de-facto closer Logan Ashworth or Friday night starter Aaron Graham?
Ashworth is a sophomore and Graham is a senior, so experience may play a role in his decision. But, Ashworth had come into a very tough situation against Livingston the previous Friday and made the pitch he needed to seal the victory.
Graham, on the other hand, has experience in the high-pressure situation that is the Mid-County Madness and had even faced the entire Nederland lineup earlier this season in the first edition of the crosstown rivalry.
Brevell opted for Graham, but even then, things didn’t go quite as planned. The groundball pitcher came in with one out in the inning, struck out the first batter he faced, walked the next and then got a flyball to Nelson in center field to end the game.
After the game, Brevell said it was more of a gut call to go with his senior and cited Graham’s experience facing Nederland. He also said that it’s almost time to stop thinking of Ashworth as a sophomore and more as a junior because of his level of experience.
Playoff trip still alive for PN-G girls
One game left for the PN-G softball team and it should be a very emotional night. The Lady Indians will host Beaumont Central for Senior Night at 5 p.m. Tuesday, needing a victory to stay in the playoff race.
That’s not all they need, however. To break the tie for fourth place with Livingston, the Lady Indians also need Vidor to beat the Lady Lions in Livingston on Tuesday. Vidor won the first matchup with Livingston 2-1, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
The Lady Lions are also attempting to avoid getting swept by the three top teams from 20-4A. Livingston lost both its games to LC-M and Nederland this season. Whichever team takes the fourth and final playoff spot will likely see 19-4 district champ Barbers Hill (12-0) in the bidistrict round of the playoffs.
Correction on Nederland-Livingston score
The News incorrectly reported in Saturday’s edition that the Nederland baseball team beat Livingston 2-0 on Friday. In fact, it was the Lions who won 2-0, sending Nederland to its third straight loss.
The loss dropped Nederland (10-10, 7-4) into fourth place in 20-4A.