Earlier this month in Oklahoma City, the NCAA Softball Rules Committee recommended implementing a “delayed dead ball” in cases when a runner leave a base before a pitch is thrown.

Umpires will still signal that the runner left the base early, but the play will continue. The defense would then be allowed to choose the result of the play, or it could opt to have the runner called out and the count would return to what it was on the hitter before the pitch was thrown.

For example, if the hitter lined into a double play, the defense could choose to take the two outs. Previously if a runner left a base early, the play was considered immediately dead and the pitch didn’t count.

“This is designed to advantage the defense regardless of the situation,” said Dee Abrahamson, the secretary-rules editor for softball. “It can now enforce the traditional effect of the out and the batter returning to the box, or the result of the play, whichever they prefer.”

All rules changes must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which next meets via conference call July 13.

In other action, the committee agreed to set predetermined dates for bat manufacturers to make any changes to their approved bat lists. Dates for the 2012 season are Jan. 15, March 15, April 15 and June 15.

The approved bat list for the 2011 season was released Jan. 1 but was amended several times throughout the season.

It was also the first time mandatory regular-season softball barrel compression testing went into effect. Mandatory barrel compression testing took place in select regular-season tournaments in all three divisions in 2011. Postseason bat testing, including post-competition testing, also was conducted.

A portable barrel compression testing machine was used to conduct the pre-competition tests. The machines are about the size of a radar gun. Bats that pass the test, which can be conducted in a matter of seconds, had a sticker placed on them so umpires knew the bat had been tested.

In 2012, coaches will be required to provide to the umpires before the game a printed copy of the current NCAA Approved Softball Bat List with all of their team’s bat models to be used in the game highlighted and the number of bats of each model indicated in the appropriate column on the list. The list will be used to conduct the umpires’ pregame bat inspection.

The committee also discussed cases when it is ruled that a pitch was intentionally thrown at a batter or an umpire. In these instances, immediate ejections could occur or warnings could be issued to the offending pitcher and catcher. Both coaches could also receive warnings.

If the violation occurs again, the offending pitcher and catcher will be ejected from the game. The coach could also be ejected if the umpire deems it appropriate. Previously, the rule applied to batters being intentionally hit by a pitch and only the pitcher and coach were ejected.

In addition, the committee is asking teams to experiment using a softball model that has .52 coefficient of restitution/300 compression for the fall nontraditional season so it can receive feedback on how the ball plays in competition.

The new model ball, which is available through five different manufacturers, is less temperature sensitive and has a lower severity index when striking a player than the .47 COR/350 compression softballs used currently.

In other actions, the committee also approved the following:

• A batter hit by a pitch in the batter’s box will not be required to attempt to get out of the way of the pitch in order to be awarded first base.
• Brick backstops and brick home-run fences will be required to be padded by the 2016 season.
• Host teams must provide 12 softballs, two of which need to be brand new, before a game begins. Previously, the host teams had to provide five softballs for a game. The rationale for the proposed change is to make more softballs available for game play to help the flow of the game.
• The committee reiterated that all lines on the playing field, the pitcher’s plate, home plate and the three bases shall be white, which would disallow the use of colors for special tributes. The playing field lines shall be marked before each game, including the second game of a double header and each game of a tournament.
• The group also reaffirmed that the effect for an illegal pitch should remain a ball on the batter and baserunners advancing one base. The committee considered several alternatives, including warnings and not advancing the runner but, in the end, the group agreed to maintain the current penalty.