College baseball on the clock

By Patrick Ochs/The Oxford Eagle

OXFORD — College baseball will be on the clock this season as the NCAA has mandated 20- and 90-second clocks to be installed at all stadiums.

The way the two clocks will work is as follows:

— With the 20-second pitch clock, when the bases are empty the pitcher has 20 seconds from the time he receives the ball from the catcher to begin his windup. Should he fail to do so within 20 seconds, he will be given a warning. Each violation after that, a ball will be added to the pitch count. Hitters that fail to enter the batter’s box within the allotted amount of time will be given a strike for each violation following the initial warning.

— The 90 second clock begins once the last out of the previous inning is made. From that point, the pitcher has 90 seconds to warm up and the leadoff batter must be in the batter’s box.

Failure to comply with the 90-second clock will result in the same penalties.

The purpose for implementing the new clocks is to speed the game along.

University of Mississippi coach Mike Bianco says the new rule is not designed to give one team — offense or defense — an advantage. Rather, it’s simply meant to move the game along from a time standpoint.

“I think the misunderstanding about the clock is it’s not like football and it’s not like basketball. People call it the ‘shot clock’ or ‘pitch clock’ and it is in the rule book called that, but it’s not supposed to be as significant as those.

“It is a rule and a device that is being used to help speed up the game. It’s not used to give anybody an advantage or disadvantage, unlike what the other clocks are. That’s why there’s a warning handed out, not a penalty. Nobody really feels that if a pitcher doesn’t throw the ball in 20 seconds he has an advantage, or the hitter has an advantage or vice versa.

“The NCAA has been on — which I’m not a fan of — but they’ve been on this kick for the last 10 years, the pace of the game. ‘You guys play the game too slow,'” Bianco said.

While the clocks will officially be debuted this season, opening day on Feb. 18 against Wright State won’t be the first time the Rebels will come across them.

In an attempt to see how teams will be effected by the clocks, the Southeastern Conference implemented them during its tournament in Hoover, Ala., last year.

Ole Miss has also used the clocks during the fall and spring practices in preparation for the season.

According to the SEC, the clocks made a difference in actual time elapsed during the games at Hoover as games from the year before were shortened by an average of 18 minutes — 3:02 in 2009 to 2:44 in 2010.

That time wasn’t felt by the players, however.

“It sounds like it could be a tough thing to handle. It sounded like that last year before the SEC Tournament, but the game wasn’t any different and I kind of like a faster-paced game anyway,” said senior pitcher/outfielder Matt Tracy. “It’s really not that much to get used to. In the SEC Tournament we didn’t have any problems with it and I don’t think any other teams had problems with it.”

Ole Miss junior closer Jake Morgan agrees.

“We’ve been working with it and I think it’s going to be more for the starters who aren’t used to it,” he said. “For me in late innings, the first inning I go in I don’t think they’re going to use it against you and I usually come in with people on base, so they’re not going to use it then.

“I don’t really know if it will effect me.”

Bianco said it’s the batters that lead off the inning that may have the toughest time getting from the field, into the dugout to get their gear, and then into the batters box within 90 seconds.

“It’s the 90 seconds that’s tough, it really is for the fielders,” he said. “It’s tough for Matt Smith to get from right field, into the third base dugout, get a drink of water, get his batting gloves and helmet on, and be ready to hit. I think you’ll have more problems with the batters.”

Ole Miss is building new boxes for the helmet and bat of the leadoff hitter at the front of the home dugout.

“It’s so the bat girls don’t take it all the way back down to the end of the dugout and then the bats get mixed up with the helmets,” Bianco said. “That way, when the last out is made and Smith is on deck, he can actually come straight there (when it’s his turn to leadoff the next inning) rather than go down and go, ‘where’s my bat and batting gloves’ with the clock running.

“I don’t want a guy that’s getting ready to bat panicking because he can’t find his batting gloves.”