Just as football has its play clock and basketball has a shot clock, baseball, at every level, is picking up a pitch clock, and teams from the Little Giants to the Yankees are learning to deal with it this year. 

Catcher Liam Patton ’23 jogs off the field after the third out of an inning against Allegheny College on April 2, 2022 at Goodrich Ballpark. Courtesy of Communications and Marketing.

After a weekend where the Little Giants had multiple pitch clock infractions against them, the pitch clock and its inconsistency will play some role in Wabash’s coming games against Albion, Hope and Heidelberg over the weekend of February 25-26.

According to new rules, pitchers have 20 seconds to begin their pitch home and batters must be in the betters’ box by the five-second mark. Batters can call timeout and pitchers can step off once each to reset the clock, but any other infractions will cost the pitcher a ball or the batter a strike.

And Wabash coaches aren’t wholly opposed to the new rules, designed to help speed up the game. However, the new rules have one major issue: no one can see how much time they have left.

“I understand the purpose of introducing a pitch clock, with the goal being to speed up pace of play and ultimately shorten games,” said Pitching Coach Jordan Niespodziany. “However, the implementation and enforcement of the pitch clock rules have been problematic thus far. At the Division III level, teams are not required to have a visible pitch clock until 2025. Meaning, the only person aware of the stop/starting of the pitch clock is the base umpire” who wears a device on their hip to keep track of time.

That fact has made the new timing rules even more difficult, according to Niespodziany.

“It places additional responsibility on our pitchers to not only be aware of signals from the catcher, hitter awareness, controlling the running game, but also, a 20 second clock in their brain to when they need to deliver a pitch,” said Niespodziany. “In our three games last weekend, we had two violations called against our pitching staff. In talking with the umpiring crew, I walked away more confused than I was before as to the subjectivity around the pitch clock and what constitutes a violation.”

And it’s not just coaches who are frustrated with the pitch clock.

“There seems to be quite a bit of gray area with the rule,” said Jacob Bishop ’23. “And you’re left guessing how much time you have left as the pitch clock is not visible. There’s going to be an adjustment period for sure.”

Still, the Little Giants are prepared for the pitch clock and they have adjusted after an opening weekend where they went 3-0 against Augustana, Wisconsin Eau-Claire and Rhodes.

“Moving forward, we will continue to communicate with our players on any changes and new understandings of the rule,” said Coach Niespodziany. “I think there are ways to use the pitch clock to your advantage both offensively and defensively. The most important thing we preach to our team is the ability to be flexible with rule changes and don’t let one call ruin your competitive nature.”

This weekend, Wabash travels to Westfield, Indiana, to play three games after a comeback for the ages to sweep last weekend’s slate. With a six-run eighth inning to overcome a four-run deficit, Wabash defeated Rhodes College 10-9.

“[We’re] really proud of the way the guys competed and had each other’s backs throughout the weekend,” said Bishop. “Everyone competed their tails off and the ‘WAF’ mantra was evident, especially in our come from behind win Sunday.”

Two players won NCAC player of the week honors, with catcher Liam Patton’s ’23 seven hit and four RBI weekend and Caleb Everson’s ’26 5.0 IP, 4K outing serving as an early sign of how successful the Little Giants can be. During the 2022 season, they got off to a hot start but came to a halt during conference play. This year’s team thinks it can stay consistent and avoid that plateau.

“We have to make sure that we don’t get complacent,” said Bishop. “Early success shows us how good we can be, so we have to stay hungry and not get comfortable with where we are at. Our goal is to try and go 1-0 every day and win the day every time we take the field.”