FHSAA suspends Rohrberg; Newsome claims 3-1 win v Bulls

Newsome assistant coach Kevin Ohme (second from left) and Bloomingdale head coach Kris Wilken (second from right) discuss the pitch-count violation during Tuesday’s game in front of West Coast Umpire Association members. 

By Jarrett Guthrie, Editor

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY – The Florida High School Athletic Association has made its ruling in regard to Tuesday’s regular-season game between Newsome and Bloomingdale, which was halted in the sixth inning due to a pitch-count violation, with Bulls coach Kris Wilken claiming the game was forfeit by the Wolves.

However, the violation is no longer a forfeiture, in a rule previously unbeknownst to every person 813Preps has been able to contact since the incident, there is absolutely no mention in any of the official FHSAA rule books posted online the rule that was in place as recently as the 2022 season had changed.

In previous seasons, the incident has been a forfeit, but according to Hillsborough County Athletic Director Lanness Robinson, the FHSAA informed him today that it changed the rule after the 2022 season.

Regardless, Robinson said, “the game should have finished, and then (Bloomingdale) should have filed an official protest with the FHSAA.”

The FHSAA’s official ruling, confirmed by Robinson on Thursday afternoon: the game reverts to the fifth inning (enough to qualify for an official game) and Newsome is declared the 3-1 winner.

Additionally, starting pitcher Wade Walton is not allowed to pitch for seven days (though he can play another position) and Wolves coach Dick Rohrberg is fined $500 (which he must pay out of pocket) and is suspended for 13 games (which, even if Newsome makes the state final, would stretch into the 2024 season).

Newsome head coach Dick Rohrberg has been suspended for 13 games and fined $500 by the FHSAA for violating the association’s pitch-count rules on Tuesday.

For five-plus innings Tuesday night, the neighborhood game between two 813Preps Top 10 baseball teams was a competitive, well-played battle as Newsome led Bloomingdale, 3-1.

But the home-sixth changed that.

Newsome senior Wade Walton struck out eight in his start on Tuesday. 

As he has almost all season, Walton (8-1) was, once again, cruising on the mound, holding Bloomingdale to an unearned run, on five hits and striking out eight.

The final of those strikeouts came on Walton’s 100th pitch. With two outs, Bloomingdale’s Johnny De La Rosa worked a 1-2 count, before fouling off one and sending a single into right field. Walton sent his next pitch to Matt Cleveland wide for a ball, bringing Wilken on field to the umpire contesting the pitch was the Wolves pitcher’s 106th pitch — a violation of the FHSAA pitch-count rules, which were implemented after the 2016 season as a measure to protect players’ arms.

Bloomingdale senior Johnny De La Rosa worked a five-pitch at-bat to push Walton to the pitch-count limit with his sixth-inning, two-out single. De La Rosa was 2-for-3 in the game.

The rules (at least pertaining to the 18-year-old Walton) states a player may not start a batter after pitch No. 105, though if he reaches that mark within an at-bat he is allowed to finish said at-bat.

The FHSAA Pitch Count Regulations from the 2023-24 Baseball Sport Manual.

Wilken informed the umpire crew and Rohrberg of his scorekeeper’s record and pointed to Newsome’s very own GameChanger account (which Rohrberg said was kept by a parent) that indicated the same thing.

Rohrberg’s contention, at the time, was his staff was keeping a hand-held counter and the first pitch to Cleveland was No. 104, a number he now admits his staff recorded incorrectly.

On Wednesday, the Wolves’ coach said he reviewed his written pitch sheet, video of the game and agreed he had made a mistake, and Newsome self-reported the violation to the FHSAA.

Wilken’s contention, in the moment and based on previous violations in Hillsborough County  — such as Plant City’s forfeiture of the 2019 Saladino Tournament final to Durant, and then Durant’s forfeiture later that season to Riverview due a violation — was that the 106th pitch made Walton ineligible and erroneously claimed the game should stop.

The home-plate umpire told the two coaches to work it out on their own, as the West Coast Umpire Association does not make FHSAA rulings and does not govern pitch count rules — a fair assessment, as umpires at the high-school level often also officiate college or higher-level games, and need to know the rules of the game, but not the arbitrary rules of governing bodies.

The game should have continued, a fact Wilken told 813Preps on Thursday he now understands, and admits he made a mistake.

Bloomingdale head coach Kris Wilken acknowledged he made a mistake calling for Tuesday’s game to be ended via forfeit after Newsome pitcher Wade Walton surpassed the FHSAA pitch count rules. 

813Preps also spoke with Rohrberg today after the ruling, and he acknowledged his mistake and agreed there should be punitive action, however, he admitted to confusion about how the number of 13 games was reached, as it isn’t posted in any FHSAA bylaws. He added he would be appealing the suspension.

Over the past few days, 813Preps has been in contact with multiple coaches, administrators, umpires, fellow journalists — none of which had any indication the rule had changed.

Robinson said he asked the FHSAA when the rule changed during his conversations today and said he was informed it occurred after the 2022 spring season. Robinson said it related to coach’s requests after a pitch-count violations affected the postseason the previous two years.

In 2019, Jacksonville Sandalwood had its 9A region quarterfinal win reversed due to pitch count, and Sanford Seminole received a second-round bye rather than advance Spruce Creek (which lost to Sandalwood 6-5); In 2021, Jupiter Christian reached the Class 2A region playoffs, but was penalized for a violation that resulted in Lake Worth Trinity Christian receiving a second-round bye. It happened again in 2022, with Hialeah forfeiting its 7A region quarterfinal to eventual state champs, Doral Academy.

The verbiage used by the FHSAA in the official Rule Book updated in December 2022 lists some penalties, though did remove the automatic forfeit rule from previous editions.

However, from there, things get murky.

The rules state a pitch-count violation “may” result in various penalties, including the $500 penalty for the coach, per violation.

Baseball rules from the Administrative Policies of the Florida High School Athletic Association.

However, nowhere in any of FHSAA’s online publications does it mention “13 games” as the official penalty, a ruling that seems arbitrary. The last rule ( lists a “Level 3 Suspension,” reviewing the Administration Policy book further does not help as far as specifics, reading:

A voicemail left for FHSAA assistant director Robbie Linderman midday has not been returned at time of publication, neither has a message and email to Linderman on another issue last week.

813Preps reached out to longtime Orlando Sentinel senior sports writer Buddy Collings, who has spent decades covering prep sports, and is viewed by most of his colleagues throughout Florida’s newspaper industry as the de facto historian of the state’s high school sports, and he had no knowledge of the forfeit rule change.

A member of the FHSAA baseball rules committee, who preferred to stay anonymous, also had no knowledge of this change. Neither had any of the longtime coaches 813Preps has spoken with since Tuesday — including Rohrberg, a 30-plus year veteran, nor Wilken, now in his 17th season at Bloomingdale.

The only information 813Preps found related to 13 games as punishment from the FHSAA occurred in 2023, when now-former Lynn Haven Mosley coach Bobby Howard was found to have violated the pitch count on multiple occasions. He was initially given a one-year suspension, but had the suspension reduced to 13 games prior to an appeal.

When asked if there were any plans to address why the rule change was not more publicly posted, Robinson said (our) schools “choose to be FHSAA members, and have to abide by their rules.”

There appears no oversight for an organization that doles out punishment seemingly without prior publication of said punishment in the public view, and apparently there is no one besides an individual school’s administration (who are beholden to the FHSAA), to call the state’s athletic governing body to task.

813Preps will update this story should the FHSAA decide to respond to our communication.