Pace of play an emphasis for SEC baseball

By: Tom Murphy Tom Murphy's Twitter account
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn (left) speaks with an umpire prior to an NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
( Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn (left) speaks with an umpire prior to an NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina on Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Chapel Hill, N.C.

FAYETTEVILLE — Dawdling pace of play and increased game times have faced college baseball authorities for many years.

The SEC will be implementing a series of steps this year and conference officials hope will quicken the pace and shorten game times.

In conference games only, which start in March, these initiatives will go into effect:

• Batters and pitchers will be on a 30-second clock to deliver a pitch after the previous play has been completed.

• Coaches will be placed on a 30-second timer for mound visits.

• New pitchers entering the game either to start an inning or in the middle of an of one will have 2 minutes, 30 seconds to warm up prior to the start of the 20-second clock.

• A 10-run mercy rule will be in play after seven innings.

Dave Van Horn, who is entering his 21st year as University of Arkansas head coach, discussed the 10-run rule after his appearance at the Swatter’s Club last week.

“We actually had a 10-run rule on getaway day if there’s like an issue with travel,” Van Horn said. “Now they’ve just put it in.

“I guess the way I look at it is, if I’m up nine, I’m going to try to score, try to save some pitching. If I’m getting it handed to me, if you get beat by 10, let’s get ready for tomorrow and not waste any pitching. And just give some youngster a shot to go pitch in a conference game, and let’s get out of here and get ready for tomorrow.”

The mercy rule applies to SEC games, but games against non-conference opponents can also be played with that stipulation if the opposing team agrees.

According to the new SEC directives, batters must be in the box and ready 20 seconds following the conclusion of the previous play. The pitcher then must begin his motion before the remainder of the 30-second timer expires.

The new mound-visit timer will begin when a coach leaves the dugout or a defensive player leaves his position to walk to the mound. After the 30-second visit, the NCAA’s 20-second pitch clock will start. Mound visits that include a doctor or trainer to evaluate a medical issue are not subject to the visit timer.

The pitching-change clock will begin when a new pitcher either crosses the warning track or leaves the bullpen area, depending on the location of the bullpen.

An SEC release announcing the new guidelines did not include directions for warnings or penalties tied into failing to adhere to the initiatives.

The University of Arkansas played five games last year that exceeded four hours, and only two of them were during the regular season. The Razorbacks’ 15-3 win over Nebraska-Omaha on March 2 and their 21-9 win over the University of Central Arkansas both logged in at 4:02.

The other four-hour games came in succession on June 4-6 in the Hogs’ three-game set against Oklahoma State in the NCAA Stillwater Regional. The duration of those games was 4:53, 4:40 and 4:03, respectively, with Arkansas winning the first and last by scores of 20-12 and 7-3 and the Cowboys taking the middle game 14-10.

Arkansas’ shortest game time came in its season finale, a 2-0 loss in Omaha, Neb., to eventual College World Series champion Ole Miss on June 23. That game lasted 2:06 as the Razorbacks were held to four hits, all singles, by left-hander Dylan DeLucia.

The Razorbacks played 22 games that lasted less than three hours last year, including both 7-inning games of a doubleheader against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on April 12. Both of those games were among the 10 that took 2:45 or less.

Van Horn said last week that the SEC also raised the idea of putting runners at second base to start extra innings, as has been done in Major League Baseball, but that met resistance from league coaches.

“I’m not agreeing to do that,” he said. “They asked us to talk about that last year.”

Van Horn dropped in an interesting nugget when talking about extra-inning games.

“Knock on wood, I’ve never tied a game,” he said. “How about that? Which is crazy, because when you coach junior college ball for five years, you coach Division II for a year and then Division I, you’re going to tie a game because somebody doesn’t have lights or something crazy happens. We’ve never tied a game.”

Norm DeBriyn, the UA’s leader in coaching wins with a record of 1,161-650-6 in 33 seasons, is the only one of 11 Arkansas baseball coaches since 1908 to have an official tie.

The SEC also announced a revision of its inclement weather policy for getaway days, allowing normal curfew rules to be waived if the visiting team does not have classes on the Monday following the end of the series. If the curfew is waived, no game can start after 10 p.m. local time or resume after midnight.


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