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Making a pitch to stay in the game

For most people, it's not that big of a deal which pitcher gets credited with a win in softball or baseball. When you're aligned with one of those teams and maybe looking for all-conference and all-state recognition, however, it's pretty important.

Truth be told, those of us here at the Mail Tribune believed we had a handle on the criteria for years — at least until Saturday.

That's when a pair of phone calls came in regarding five-inning victories in softball and baseball, where the starting pitcher was removed after two innings of service in a game determined by the 10-run mercy rule. We theorized that we knew who the pitching victory should go to — based on past experiences and seven-inning models — then opted for a little fact-finding mission to confirm our findings.

That's when all sorts of head-scratching occurred, thanks to a clarification on the rule in softball made this season by the Oregon School Activities Association. That clarification involved changing the required number of innings pitched to half the total number of innings played in the game for a starting pitcher to be credited with a win.

"We had some requests to do that," said Cindy Simmons, OSAA assistant executive director. "With softball, pitchers are coming in and going out and coming back in sometimes so we had to make a change to clarify the rule so people would know you have to pitch half the innings to get a win."

The problem there, is, what's half? With three outs required to conclude any inning for a pitcher, there really is no midway point one can clear beyond even-inning contests.

It's a question that couldn't readily be answered by those at the OSAA Monday, although Simmons and company pledged to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

"The rule talks about half of the innings in the game, but it does not talk specifically about number of outs," she said. "That may be something I am missing, though."

At first blush, according to Simmons, the rule would require a starting pitcher to throw at least three innings in a five- or six-inning game or four innings in a standard seven-inning game to be in line for a victory.

But when you think about the term "half" and realize that's not possible in a contest with an odd number of innings, does the ruling then truly involve pitching more than half of the innings played? Can a girl pitch the first 22/3 innings of a five-inning game and get the win? How about tossing 32/3 innings for seven-inning tilts?

As odd as the question may be, the situation most certainly has and will creep up at some point. Already this season a girl has gotten injured prior to meeting the criteria for starters inside the circle and therefore lost out on her opportunity to add to her win column.

While that may equate to inane minutia for some, in statistic-driven sports like softball and baseball, it can be the difference between first- or second-team selections in postseason honors. And then that occasionally can translate into better collegiate opportunities, and so on and so on.

Stay tuned for when more information becomes available, unless, of course, you have a life.

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BILL COWELL HAD THE "former" taken away from his boys basketball title last week, returning to coach the Grants Pass High varsity team after a four-year hiatus.

Cowell previously guided the Cavemen from 1996-2006, and has most recently served as an assistant coach for the girls basketball varsity team.

During his tenure, Cowell compiled a 180-83 overall record and was 103-41 in the Southern Oregon Conference. His Cavemen won a share of the SOC crown in both 2000 and '05. Cowell led Grants Pass to eight state-playoff berths in his 10 seasons and back-to-back state trophies at the Class 4A tournament (sixth place in 2001 and fourth in 2002).

He replaces Scott Gottula, who posted a 29-66 record in his four seasons at GP.

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FOR THOSE WHO didn't see this in the Ashland Daily Tidings last week, a bronze memorial bench honoring Dave Kitchell has been specially made for the deck next to the new small gym and will feature a view of Walter A. Phillips Field and Grizzly Peak.

Kitchell was a longtime football coach at Ashland High and Bellview Elementary teacher who died of cancer in 2007. He also served as an assistant coach in basketball, but is remembered most as defensive coordinator for a football program that won three state championships at the highest classification between 1989 and 1998.

"Dave loved looking at Grizzly Peak from there," Ashland High principal Jeff Schlecht said of the bench's location in the Daily Tidings article.

Kitchell's widow, Tricia Kitchell, helped pick out the bench, which will be big enough to seat three or four people, according to Schlecht. Other patio furniture will be placed on the deck to provide more seating.

A dedication ceremony is tentatively scheduled to precede Ashland's first home game of the 2010 season.

Kitchell was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2002 and the popular Ashland figure died on Nov. 18, 2007.

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THEIR TALENT IN COMPETITION is undeniable, but the North Medford baseball team and Crater boys track and field team proved they're well-rounded in the classroom as well.

Both were recently honored by the Dairy Farmers of Oregon in their academic all-state spring listing for their top-ranking grade-point averages in their sport and classification.

North Medford tied Roseburg for top honors at the Class 6A level in baseball with a 3.62 team GPA, while Crater's average of 3.49 in boys track was the best at the 5A level.

The Black Tornado earned two other top-10 distinctions in girls track (third at 3.77) and girls tennis (10th at 3.72), while the Comets were second in baseball and tied for fourth in softball with identical 3.61 marks.

South Medford's baseball team ranked fourth in 6A at 3.45, while the girls track team at South tied for sixth with a 3.69 GPA.

Also at the 5A level, Ashland's girls track team tied for fifth (3.71), boys golf team placed fifth (3.57) and girls tennis team was sixth (3.70).

The Phoenix boys golf team was fourth at the 4A level with a 3.69.

Class 3A Cascade Christian and Class 2A St. Mary's had the most teams make it on the top-10 listing with five and six honors, respectively.

The Challengers' boys tennis team was third (3.77) and girls track team tied for third (3.71), while the baseball team tied for fourth (3.39), boys track team placed eighth (3.23) and boys golf team was 10th (3.42).

For the Crusaders, the boys track team was second (3.57), while the baseball team placed third (3.47) and the girls track (3.71) and boys golf (3.45) teams each tied for fifth. The girls golf team at St. Mary's tied for eighth with a 3.69 GPA, and the girls tennis team was 10th (3.66).

Also in 3A competition, Rogue River's girls track team was eighth at 3.65.