April 27 (UPI) -- The Pioneer Baseball League plans to replace extra innings with a sudden-death home run derby, the MLB independent partner league announced Tuesday.
The eight-team league was established in 1939 and operates in the Mountain West region with teams in Montana, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. The Pioneer League formerly operated as a short season Single-A level faction of the Minor League Baseball system.
The 2020 Pioneer League season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. MLB designated the Pioneer League as a partner league in November.
"To avoid the excessive strain on our pitching staffs, the Pioneer Baseball League will not have extra innings, but rather will employ a first-of-its-kind Knock Out rule that resolves tied games with a head-to-head, sudden death home run duel," the league said in a news release.
Under the terms of the new rule, each team will designate a hitter for the session. Each hitter receives five pitches and the winner is determined by who hits the most home runs. If the hitters tie, other hitters will be selected for additional rounds until a winner is declared.
The Pioneer League announced additional rule changes, which include: a designated pinch hitter; a designated pinch runner; revised check swing; and three-man umpire crews.
The designated pinch hitter rule allows for a player who hasn't previously entered the game to pinch hit for an eligible roster player, who is allowed to return to his defensive position. The designated pinch hitter will not be allowed to return.
The designated pinch runner rule allows for a player who hasn't previously entered the game to pinch run for an eligible roster player, who can return to return to his defensive position.
Teams can use the designated pinch hitter and runner rules once per game.
The altered check swing rule allows hitters to appeal strike calls to base umpires. The previous rule only allowed for pitchers and catchers to appeal check swing calls. The Pioneer League's new three-man umpire crew is an increase from its past use of two-man crews.
"I'm thrilled to see these exciting rules changes implemented for this season," Pioneer League president Michael Shapiro said in a news release. "The Pioneer Baseball League is committed to developing ideas that enhance the strategy of the game, protect the safety of our players and add to the fun and engagement of our fans.
"We believe this focus will help assure the future of the game among a broader and more diverse audience."
The 2021 Pioneer League season starts May 22 and ends in September.