In Sunday night’s game, it routinely took O’Sullivan 10 to 17 seconds to signal Rivera once the pitcher had the ball. The tempo improved two nights later when Florida played again. O’Sullivan, in his sixth trip to the Series, shrugged off the first night pokiness as an anomaly.
“The first game is always a little weird,” he said.
Last year’s College World Series games averaged 3 hours 5 minutes — 15 minutes quicker than 2015, but still too ponderous for many tastes. This year only one of the first nine games finished in less than three hours. Repeated mound trips by catchers, batters stepping out after every pitch, and deliberate pitching changes drag things out as well.
“I don’t think there is a single person that doesn’t think we need to speed the game up a little bit,” said Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association.
The results, however, make teams resistant to change. Faedo, a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers, limited T.C.U. to two hits over seven scoreless innings on Sunday, and his teammate Brady Singer, a right-hander drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school, followed up on Tuesday with seven strong innings in a win over Louisville. Both credited their performances to O’Sullivan’s pitch-calling.
“I was just throwing whatever Sully wanted me to throw, trusting him and Mike,” said Faedo, a 6-foot-5 junior right-hander. “They know the hitters more than anyone.”
T.C.U. generally took 6 to 10 seconds to signal its pitches from dugout to catcher, about average among Series teams. Texas A&M and Cal State Fullerton were the most efficient, often taking only 4 to 6 seconds. But multiply an average of 10 seconds of signaling by the 300 or so pitches it takes to play a college baseball game, and you have about 54 minutes of dead time in a sport in which games are taking longer and longer. And that’s a problem.
Last January the A.B.C.A. formed a Pace of Play Committee, led by Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin. One obvious solution — letting catchers call the pitches — simply won’t happen; coaches oppose relinquishing control.
“For college coaches whose jobs are on the line, and that one pitch might determine the outcome of the game, I think we have every right to call the pitch so that nobody gets blamed but us,” Louisiana State Coach Paul Mainieri said. “If the pitch gets hit, it’s our fault. You don’t blame it on the kid.
“You like to think your chances of succeeding are better with a professional coach who’s been in the game for years,” Mainieri added, “versus a young, 18-year-old kid who probably called the pitch that’s easiest to catch for him. It’s just part of the game of college baseball.”
Instead, the coaches’ committee is studying whether to outfit catchers with headsets for direct communication with the dugout. That could cut signaling time in half. Corbin met in Omaha this week with representatives of the N.C.A.A. and a company that provides headsets for the N.F.L. (Last spring Yankees manager Joe Girardi, eager to speed up major-league games, proposed putting earpieces in batting helmets to eliminate signs altogether.)
“Watching the games here, and watching our own games, Vanderbilt can very much slow a game down, too,” Corbin said. “The games have gotten to a point, especially in Omaha, where it’s three and a half hours long. That’s not good for the consumer, especially when it’s the seventh and eighth inning, and people are leaving at the best part of the game.”
College coaches have called pitches for so long that few question the system anymore, though major league farm directors dislike it because it means catchers must be taught to call games in the minors, slowing their development.
Princeton and Minnesota, which did not qualify for the N.C.A.A. tournament this season, are among the few teams who have catchers call their own games.
“I haven’t called a pitch from the dugout in 20 years as a head coach,” said Princeton Coach Scott Bradley, a former major league catcher. Bradley said that he believed a catcher and pitcher understood the game’s rhythms better than a coach sitting 40 feet away. The longtime Minnesota pitching coach Todd Oakes and his head coach, John Anderson, thought the same way, and Anderson maintained the practice after Oakes died last year from leukemia.
But others, like Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, hesitate to surrender control. Coaches, he said, have more time to study the increasing volume of video and scouting information than a college catcher juggling athletics, academics and campus life. And McDonnell said that his players simply aren’t interested.
“A scouting report, they look like they can fall asleep,” he said.
McDonnell also doubted a college catcher could retain information about pitch sequences and batter tendencies as well as a coach with pitch charts and binders at his fingertips.
“Molina can do that,” McDonnell said, meaning Yadier Molina, the veteran St. Louis Cardinals catcher. “I don’t know if a ton of amateur catchers can do that. I think this is where pitching coaches have taken it to another level, utilizing all the information they have.”
Some coaches, under the right circumstances, will cede dugout control. Florida State’s Mike Martin, second in N.C.A.A. history with more than 1,900 victories, allowed three catchers to call parts of games in his 38 seasons: His son Mike Martin Jr., now an assistant on his staff; the current Kansas City Royals coach Pedro Grifol; and the four-time All-Star Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants. But he said it generally required a four-run lead and a seasoned pitcher on the mound.
“It’s not something we did with regularity,” Martin said.
T.C.U. Coach Jim Schlossnagle said he had found only one college catcher who called a game better than he could: Chad Sutter, the son of the Hall of Fame reliever Bruce Sutter. That happened while Schlossnagle was the pitching coach at Tulane.
“He grew up in a big league clubhouse,” Schlossnagle said. “I told our head coach halfway through the season, ‘This guy’s got a better feel for it than anybody I’ve been around.’ He was a freshman. So for the rest of his career, four years, he called all the pitches.”
At T.C.U., Schlossnagle assigns pitch-calling to the assistant coach Kirk Saarloos, a major-league pitcher, but he said he encouraged his pitchers to shake off a sign if they feel strongly about another pitch. “We want him throwing the pitch he has 100 percent confidence in, versus the pitch that we call that he may have 50 percent confidence in,” Schlossnagle said.
That is a common concession. Oregon State right-hander Jake Thompson (14-1), who led Division I in victories going into the College World Series and took his first loss, 3-1, to Louisiana State on Friday, said Beavers pitching coach Nate Yeskie also allowed him to shake off signs from his freshman catcher, Adley Rutschman. But he rarely does.
“It goes back to trust in my pitching coach,” Thompson said. “We go over scouting reports with him and different things like that. We kind of know what he’s calling. I know when I roll really well, we’ve both got the same idea of what to throw. When we’re rolling, I pretty much agree with everything he calls.”
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