The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel in its July conference call approved a new designation in softball lineups that will be referred to as the "offense player," or OP.

The offense player designation will refer to any player who remains in her spot in the batting order but is replaced on defense by the designated player (DP).

For example, if the designated player enters the game to play first base, and the first baseman remains in her original spot in the batting order, the first baseman will be referred to as the offense player (OP). Previously there was no term to refer to this player once she transitioned to playing offense only.

The Softball Rules Committee made the nomenclature change to clear up confusion about what the players should be called in the abovementioned scenario.

"OP gives a name to the player who the designated player has replaced on defense but who remains in the game as a hitter in the batting order," said Softball Committee Chair Vickie Van Kleeck, who is the coach at Ferrum. "It will eliminate the misconception that this person is a temporary designated player, and the resulting confusion, because she has no substitution rights of the DP."

For instance, the DP may go in and out of the game for any player at any defensive position at any time and any number of times without it counting as a substitution for anyone except the flex player. The flex player is initially listed in the 10th spot on the lineup card and may play any defensive position and may only enter the game on offense in the DP's batting position.

The OP does not have these substitution rights.

Ejections

Panel members approved subdividing ejections into administrative and behavioral categories to provide a more accurate snapshot of all disqualifying events. The categories are being established to track the reasons behind the ejections.

If ejections are on the rise for administrative issues, such as excessive conferences or players entering the game in positions they are not entitled to, then the committee will address rule education or propose rule changes.

However, if ejections are on the rise for arguing or inappropriate language, then the committee will need to focus on sportsmanship and comportment strategies.

In addition, this separation of types of ejections will assist conferences and others in applying their sportsmanship rules in cases where ejections result in mandatory suspensions. With the proposed rule change, ejections for administrative reasons could be exempt from those ejections that lead to suspensions.

Post-game video use

The panel also approved a proposal allowing a television monitor or video equipment used by one of the teams to be reviewed by umpires following a game in the following circumstances:

• To verify players and/or team personnel involved in a fight;
• To verify players and/or team personnel who left their bench or a team area to join a brawl; and
• To assist the NCAA softball secretary-rules editor in confirming the accuracy of a softball incident report involving a protest or potential suspension.

As many sports are addressing replay and video, the Softball Rules Committee approved this limited use that will not disrupt the flow of the game, but will provide an opportunity to confirm that accurate information will be provided in cases where there may be post-game discipline.

Strike zone

Two new diagrams will be placed in the next NCAA Softball Rules and Interpretations Book that depict the strike zone on two planes for better visualization for players, umpires and coaches. The language to describe the strike zone has not changed.

One diagram will be a vertical version of the strike zone that is over home plate and extends from the bottom of the batter's sternum to the top of her knees.

The other diagram will depict the horizontal view of the plate area. This second diagram illustrates the width of the strike zone, which is the 17 inches of home plate plus the area where the ball grazes either edge of the plate.

The Softball Rules Committee believes the new depictions will aid players in visualizing the strike zone, coaches in teaching the zone to batters, pitchers and catchers, and umpires in consistently calling an accurate strike zone.