10-run rule for baseball gets mixed reviews



The new 10-run mercy rule in high school baseball is receiving mixed reviews. It's a rule the umpires wanted and most of the coaches did not.

Basically the rule is: If the losing team is down by 10 runs or more after batting five times, the game is over.

County teams have had to invoke the rule a few times already.

Examples from this week: Old Mill, 20-0 over Broadneck; South River, 14-0 over Surrattsville and South River, 13-3 over Bowie; and Severna Park, 18-3 over Annapolis (took six innings ) .

The idea is to prevent games from getting totally out of hand with the loser unnecessarily embarrassed, keeping teams from running up scores for whatever reason, and to avoid games that go on forever. Softball has had such a rule for years.

Pros and cons come with the rule.

What's unfortunate is the coaches had no say in the National Federation of High Schools' implementation of the rule. It's been used sporadically around the country but not in Anne Arundel County, where coaches opposed it.

But the national federation made it mandatory for this season.

Those who voted in the rule were either administrators or umpires. No coaches were on the sanctioning board. Maryland's representative is Tom O'Hara, an umpire and is the state rules interpreter.

"The umpires wanted the rule but the coaches are concerned about playing time for subs," said Arundel's 25-year coach Bernie Walter. "Often when you get way out in front, it gives you a chance to clear the bench and give some kids who don't normally get in a chance to play."

Walter speaks for a lot of other coaches who feel no restrictions should be placed oil how long games last. High school teams play seven innings.

Minutes are not taken out of one-sided basketball games, so why restrictions on baseball? That's what most county coaches ask.

By shortening the games to five innings, coaches have two innings less to put in reserves. If your the home team with the big lead, you may get only four at-bats.

"I don't believe we have any coaches in our county who want to embarrass kids and, really, if you get beat bad, you should accept it as a challenge to get better," said Walter.

Walter makes some very good points, but the umpires' view is also solid.

"I don't know what you accomplish by winning a game 30-0," said Glen Burnie's Frank Svoboda, who has been around baseball as a player, coach and umpire for nearly 60 years. "Even if the subs get to play, what good does it do them to play against a team that might be at the helpless point?"

Along the same lines, the team way behind may put in reserves not nearly as good as the ones they started, and things can get worse. You don't need three- to four-hour games that are actually settled in the first hour.

The arguments are good on both sides, but here's hoping the next time the 10-run rule is reviewed, coaches get a chance to voice their opinions.


Mike Ziegler, Old Mill's All-Metro pitcher in 1997, could be on the way to junior college All-America honors at Shoals (Ala.) Community College, where he is 6-0 with one save through this week. The Stallions are 17-3 overall and 6-1 in the Division I Alabama Junior College Conference.

The Anne Arundel Community College baseball team of coach Clayton Jacobson is off to a 13-1 start. Jacobson is getting a lot of production from a host of Anne Arundel County high school products, including John Kelly (Old Mill), Marvin Hazen (Chesapeake), Keith Mankiewicz (Severna Park), Anthony DiGiorgio (Northeast), Chris Keane and Steve Sylvester (Arundel).

Former Chesapeake catcher Luis Falcon, who played at Dundalk CC, is the starting catcher at Division I Elon (N.C.) College and is attracting pro scouts with his throwing and hitting.

No. 19 North County (2-0) has a big week visiting not-to-be-taken-lightly Glen Burnie today playing host to No. 4-ranked Chesapeake Wednesday, and traveling to No. 9 Old Mill Friday. The big, question: When does North County coach Don Usewick use hardthrowing ace Billy Whitecotton?

Congrats to the youngest varsity coach in the county, Dave Lanham of Archbishop Spalding (1-2), for posting his first win, by 3-0, over McDonogh Thursday. Ray Sauser's three-hitter with three strikeouts led the Cavaliers in the MIAA A Conference victory.

North County's defenseman Andrew Walenga is the only county player named preseason AllState by the Maryland State Lacrosse Coaches Association.

Have a note for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline at 410-647-2499.

! Pub Date: 3/29/98

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