The NCAA is now requiring a pitch clock for all games in the 2023 season, and Lehigh baseball pitchers feel mixed emotions about it.
The pitch clock rules for college baseball are slightly different from the MLB, but both share a similar concept. If pitchers do not throw a pitch or attempt a pickoff move within 20 seconds of receiving the ball, they are charged with a ball to the count.
The same goes for the batter, who is charged with a strike if they are not in the batter’s box ready to take the pitch before the clock expires.
The pitch clock is usually determined by either the field umpires or a visible timer set up on the field for players to view.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Shane O’Neill feels negatively toward the implementation of the pitch clock.
O’Neill said there has not been a physical clock at most of the games he’s played this season. He said this has created confusion for pitchers, which leads to numerous timeouts, arguments and pitchers stepping off to reset the timer.
“It’s a good idea, but I think the way they’re going about it isn’t great,” O’Neill said. “Everywhere else (the pitch clock) has been done by the umpires, and no one really knows when it starts or the exact rules of it.”
He said he thinks the association should release a statement clarifying how the pitch clock should and will work.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Cole Leaman agreed with O’Neill. He said the clock adds uncertainty, and depending on the team and umpire, 20 seconds can feel too quick or too slow.
Leaman said the pitch clock also creates challenges with runners on base.
“It really affects holding runners and how you deal with runners on base,” Leaman said. “Because of the pitch clock and because you have to vary your looks to each base and make sure the runners have their feet stopped, that takes time.”
Some pitchers, however, support the rule changes.
Junior right-hander Teddy Tolliver said he thinks hitters are affected by the pitch clock just as much as pitchers.
“Honestly, I’d say I’m a fan of it,” Tolliver said. “It’s speeding up the hitters, and that’s a bigger problem for the hitters than the pitchers.”
Tolliver said he naturally pitches at a fast pace, so the clock has not impacted him. He said he thinks it hasn’t had a major influence on the other pitchers either, and they have adjusted when necessary.
Tolliver said the pitch clock has also placed a higher emphasis on pitch selection and PitchComs, a device the catcher uses to electronically signal the pitch to a microphone in the pitcher’s hat, which helps them save time — compared to using hand signals that can sometimes be communicated unclearly.
“We’ve adjusted using the (Pitch)Coms,” Tolliver said. “You kind of have to trust the catcher and trust the coaching staff.”
O’Neill said the pitchers have made other adjustments, such as limiting the amount of times they step off the mound to save time. Pitchers sometimes step off the mound to take time to think about their next move, but the clock now adds constraints that discourage this.
Despite having to make adjustments, the Mountain Hawks sit at 11-9. They will face the University of Pennsylvania on March 22 as their last non conference game.
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