Sudden Death Inning Will Replace Home Run Derby Tiebreaker

Monday, January 24, 2022
By Kyle Dawson
Sudden Death Inning Will Replace Home Run Derby Tiebreaker

WASHINGTON, Pa. (Jan. 24) - The Frontier League announced today that it is dropping its Home Run Derby tiebreaker it used in 2021 in favor of a sudden-death inning that will succeed one extra inning using the international tiebreaker. 

The league and owners approved and announced the new tiebreaker. For any regular season game tied at the end of regulation (nine innings for a traditional game and seven innings for a double-header game), and remaining tied following one inning of play using International Tiebreaker (ITB) rules, a sudden death inning will determine the winner.

Field managers will meet with umpires with the home manager choosing offense or defense. For the team on offense, the player on the lineup card immediately preceding the batter due up will start on first base. The defensive team will have three outs to prevent the offense from scoring. If the team on offense scores they will win the game, while if the defensive team retires the side without scoring a run, they will win. As with the ITB runner, if the runner placed on first base scores, the run will be unearned. The sudden death rule guarantees that no game will be played beyond 10.5 innings or beyond 8.5 innings for a double-header game.

Last season, 22 games needed the Home Run Derby to determine the winner. Those 22 were 2.9% of the 768 regular-season Frontier League games that were scheduled to be played. A few games were cancelled last summer and not played, but the number is not much above 3% of games that would've used it. Washington only needed to go to one Home Run Derby, which it lost. The Wild Things only played in three extra-inning games during the regular season.

For instance:

Washington and Lake Erie are tied at 3-3 after 10 innings of play with the game occurring at Wild Things Park. Washington manager Tom Vaeth would have the choice to bat or defend. For the purposes of this exercise, we'll say Vaeth and the Wild Things choose to defend. If the Wild Things retire the side before the runner on first or any runner scores, Washington wins the game. If Washington chose to hit, and the first batter hit an RBI double, the game would be over and the Wild Things would be the winner. 

It's a big decision, but doesn't lay the fate of the game to a coin.

“While sudden death will not happen every game, we believe when it does it will have the fans on their feet,” commented Kevin Winn, Deputy Commissioner for On-Field Operations. “Created by a former manager, this initiative received overwhelming support of our current field managers and Rules Committee.”

The rule was first proposed by former Florence field manager Dennis Pelfrey, who currently manages in the San Francisco Giants’ organization. It was refined by a committee of Frontier League managers and administrators, including managers Andy McCauley of Evansville, Quebec’s Pat Scalabrini, and Ottawa’s Bobby Brown.

“Short of playing traditional extra innings, the sudden death tiebreaker is the best option for determining the outcome of a game,” stated McCauley, the Frontier League’s winningest active manager and 2021 Manager of the Year. “With regard to game time, injury prevention, and a baseball strategic outcome I feel the new sudden death rule could be an innovative solution.”

Tom Vaeth, who will enter his second season as manager of the Wild Things in 2022, wanted to see this rule implemented rather than the Home Run Derby, and is excited for the change.

"Personally I’m thrilled that the league has decided to go in this direction and take the initiative to be a pioneer in a new way to settle ball games," said Vaeth. "It was an idea that when I first heard of it I fell in love with and endorsed it from the beginning. I think it will bring excitement to the game more so than the home run derby and it will put the game back into the manager's hands deciding whether to play offense or defense."

The Wild Things will kick off their 20th Frontier League season May 13 at home against the New York Boulders. The full schedule is available at Check out the roster as it gets announced by clicking here