The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Wednesday approved changes to the components of the pitching position and the procedure for pitchers to take signals before releasing a pitch for the 2020 season.
Since many pitchers receive the information on which pitch to throw by looking at a signal armband, the NCAA Softball Rules Committee felt pitchers were stepping onto the pitcher’s plate and starting their pitching motion without pausing, creating a distinct advantage over the batter.
Pitchers must follow these protocols beginning in 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.
Barrel compression testing will be required to be conducted before the start of each tournament, series, doubleheader or single midweek game during the regular season in Division I by Jan. 1, 2021, and in Divisions II and III by Jan. 1, 2022.
This will require schools to purchase a barrel compression testing machine, which costs around $875.
The panel approved allowing conferences to experiment with video review in regular-season conference games and conference tournament games. The membership will be sent more information about 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 timing 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: 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 call can be changed to a catch only if it results in a third out. With no runners on base, a no-catch call 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 one minute, two seconds.