The NCAA Softball Rules Committee proposed changes to the components of the pitching position and the procedure for pitchers to take signals prior to releasing a pitch.
All rules recommendations must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to discuss softball rules proposals July 24.
Committee members, who met last week in Indianapolis, thoroughly discussed the need to modify what occurs in the way pitchers receive signs before starting their pitching motion. Many pitchers receive the information on which pitch to throw by looking at a signal armband. Committee members think pitchers were stepping onto the pitcher’s plate and starting their pitching motion without pausing, creating a distinct advantage over the batter.
If approved, the following protocols must be followed by pitchers for the 2020 season:
The pitcher is in the pitching position when she has her hands apart, her pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate, both feet on the ground within the 24-inch length of the pitcher’s plate and her hips in line with first and third bases, and the catcher is in position to receive the pitch.
While the pitcher takes the signal, her stride foot may be on or behind the pitcher’s plate as far back as desired. Once the pitcher initially sets the toe of her stride foot, she cannot move it to increase the distance behind the pitcher’s plate. In addition, the pitcher must take or appear to take a signal while in the pitching and signal-taking positions.
“With the addition of the signal armband in the game, we felt it was important to get the pitcher to be in contact with the rubber while taking the signal,” said Edith Gallagher, committee chair and coach at Mansfield. “It was important that the pitchers aren’t able to get the signal standing behind the rubber, then get a walk-through toward the batter.”
Committee members proposed requiring barrel compression testing to be conducted at a minimum prior to the start of each tournament, series, doubleheader or single midweek game during the regular season in all three divisions by January 1, 2021.
This would require schools to purchase a barrel compression testing machine, which costs $875.
“You just can’t tell as a coach if a bat is legal or not,” Gallagher said. “It may look legal or illegal, but the only way to be sure is by testing it. As the season goes on, a bat can become illegal. You may have a bat early in the year that is within the rules, but it may fail a bat test later.”
The committee recommended allowing conferences to experiment with video review in regular-season conference games and conference tournament games. The membership will be sent more information on how to request to experiment and a list of data that will need to be collected.
Coaches will be allowed two video review challenges during a game. A challenge must be initiated verbally or visually before the next pitch; before the pitcher and all infielders have clearly vacated their normal fielding position and left fair territory; or before the umpires have left the field of play. Umpires would be allowed to initiate a video review from the sixth inning until the end of the game.
The following plays could be reviewed:
- Deciding whether a batted ball called fair is fair or foul.
- Deciding whether a batted ball called a ground-rule double or home run is fair or foul.
- Deciding whether a batted ball called foul that could result in a ground-rule double or home run is fair or foul.
- Spectator interference.
- Deciding scoring plays at home plate inclusive of collisions (illegal and/or malicious slides), obstruction by a defensive player or time plays.
- Force/tag play calls: Plays involving all runners acquiring the base before the defensive player’s attempt to put the runner out at any base.
- Hit-by-pitch calls: Those plays for which there is a possibility that a pitched ball touches a batter or her clothing, which shall incorporate a review on whether the batter is inside or outside the batter’s box if it is determined upon review that a pitched ball has touched a batter or her clothing.
- Placement of runners: An umpire’s placement of all runners (per the rules/case book) after any blocked ball call.
- With runners on base, a no-catch can be changed to a catch only if it results in a third out. With no runners on base, a no-catch can be changed to a catch at any time.
The Southeastern Conference experimented with video review in its conference tournament last season. Eight video reviews took place during the tournament, with only one call being overturned. Another review was inconclusive, so the original call stood. The rest of the reviews confirmed the original call on the field.
The average time of the video reviews was 1 minute, 2 seconds.
“The committee feels that the technology is available to more schools,” Gallagher said. “We want to open it up for other conferences so they can experiment with it. That will give us larger data points to consider allowing video review in the future.”