UCLA pitcher and Texas Rangers draftee Ryan Garcia, 21, threw 112 pitches in his NCAA regionals start, then pitched in relief two days later. (Scott Chandler/UCLA Athletics)

In a typical regular-season week of NCAA college baseball, schools will play one midweek game (on a Tuesday, for example) against a non-conference opponent and then a three-game series Friday through Sunday. In short, four games every seven days.

In the opening round of the NCAA playoffs, schools participate in a four-team, double-elimination tournament. This means that if a school loses one of its first two games, it must play five games in four days in order to advance.

This presents two problems:

  1. The regular season doesn’t prepare a team for the playoffs.
  2. Workloads for pitching staffs are ramped up radically.

For example, here’s how it just went for Stanford and UCLA, along with the pitch counts for the two Pac-12 teams.


  • Friday, 1 p.m.: Stanford 11, Sacramento State 0 (122)
  • Saturday, 7 p.m.: Fresno State 7, Stanford 2 (169)
  • Sunday, 12 noon: Stanford 12, Sacramento State 3 (109)
  • Sunday, 6 p.m.: Stanford 8, Fresno State 6 (169)
  • Monday, 7 p.m.: Stanford 9, Fresno State 7 (143)
  • Total: 712 pitches in four days, 178 pitches per day


  • Friday, 7 p.m.: UCLA 5, Omaha 2 (119)
  • Saturday, 7 p.m.: Loyola Marymount 3, UCLA 2 (135)
  • Sunday, 12 noon: UCLA 11, Baylor 6 (128)
  • Sunday, 6 p.m.: UCLA 6, Loyola Marymount 1 (129)
  • Monday, 7 p.m.: UCLA 6, Loyola Marymount 3 (155)
  • Total: 666 pitches in four days, 166.5 pitches per day

Both college teams need to be thankful that there were no extra-inning games.

This would be a challenge for the Dodgers to handle, let alone a college team that won’t have the depth or resources of a major-league team. And not only does the Dodger pitching staff run 13 deep, you can bet the front office would make a transaction to swap in at least another pitcher if the team had any workload issues. Also keep in mind that a 22-year-old like Julio Urías, whom the Dodgers still go out of their way to protect, would be the veteran workhorse of a college pitching staff.

Even in the world of the major-league postseason, teams are never scheduled to play more than three games in three days. Obviously, television coverage is a consideration in the scheduling, but the bottom line is that pitching staffs have no small amount of protection in the MLB playoffs.

Instead, you have UCLA, the top-ranked team in the country, forced to use Ryan Garcia — a second-round draft pick (50th overall) by the Texas Rangers — for 24 pitches on Monday, with only two days’ rest after throwing 112 pitches Friday. The alternative is to rely heavily on second-tier pitchers who have rarely seen action with any stakes at all during the regular season.

The NCAA baseball regionals are a relic from an era when high pitch counts were a mark of achievement, not attrition. While college baseball will be the final chapter of many pitchers’ career, the elite still have futures to worry about. Trust me: I don’t deny the cutthroat charm of the crammed double-elimination bracket, but given what we know about preserving pitcher arms, especially while they are still developing, the current system is deeply flawed.

One solution would be to add a weekend to the playoffs, so that instead of having 16 four-team brackets, you start with 32 head-to-head matchups, best-of-three, that mirror the regular season.

Another path would be to allow for a fifth day in the opening weekend, to at least eliminate the Sunday doubleheader. That way, the Game 1 starter could start a potential winner-take-all regional championship game.

I’m open to ideas. But what the NCAA has now needs fixing.