SPOKANE, Wash. — Baseball in the Pioneer League was already going to look different in 2021, but new rules announced on Tuesday bring a more dramatic flair to the newly independent league.
On Tuesday, the league announced new rules for the 2021 season, including replacing extra innings with a sudden-death home run duel, the first of its kind.
In the new rule, if a game is still tied after nine innings, the game will enter the "Knock Out" round, where each team will pick one batter to receive five pitches. The team whose batter hits the most home runs wins the game. If it's still tied after one round, "Knock Out" rounds continue with new batters until there is a winner. The league said in a press release that the rule is designed to avoid excessive strain on pitching staffs.
The league also added designated pinch-hitter and designated pinch-runner rules. Under these rules, a "one-time use" player who hasn't previously entered the game can be used to pinch hit or pinch run for a player in the starting lineup without permanently taking the starter out of the game. The starter can return to their position later, but the designated pinch-runner/pinch-hitter is out of the game.
In other changes, hitters can now appeal to the base umpires on a check swing, and the league will now employ three umpires per game instead of two.
The league's full press release can be read here.