Citing unseasonably cool temperatures, poor field conditions and frozen turf, the Minnesota State High School League's executive committee ruled Wednesday to permit shorter baseball and softball games. The measure allows for a maximum number of games to be played in a condensed season while preserving pitcher's arms.
By mutual agreement, teams now can play two 5-inning games in a doubleheader format for the rest of this season only. The standard format is seven innings for the first game and five innings for the second game.
For example, teams that saw conference games postponed this week due to unplayable fields could agree to play a doubleheader on their next scheduled game day.
Ensuring conference games should be a program's priority, said Bob Madison, league associate director who oversees baseball.
Single games must still be played under the national rules requiring 7-inning games or until a regulation game is completed.
Madison said pitch count rules established before the 2017 to limit strain on young arms did not create added urgency to alter game format.
Neither suspending pitch counts nor scheduling games for Sunday, long considered an off day for high school league activities, were considered, Madison said.
Concerned about the number of available officials, the league relaxed staffing standards for the rest of the season.
In baseball, two registered officials typically are required. However, a waiver can be obtained to allow for using one registered and one non-registered official or for using only one registered official.
In softball, one registered official is required and two are recommended. A waiver can be obtained to allow for using a single non-registered official.
Jason Nickleby, the league's coordinator of officials, must approve all waivers in advance.
The current scheduling predicament rivals the 2013 spring season, when some conferences mandated doubleheaders for softball and baseball and others reduced their schedules.
"We're actually about a week ahead of where we were at that time in terms of trying to address ways to move games around," Madison said. "I think our coaches have done a great job of being proactive."