NCAA ON ILLEGAL PITCHES
NCAA Softball Secretary Rules Editor
On what a pitcher has to do to have an illegal pitch:
“What we are looking for the pitcher to do is start with both of their feet on the plate and then as they come forward to release the pitch they drive forward towards the plate, which has always been the rule. They get their one step and it’s forward towards the plate. What’s happened I think over time is some pitchers have either developed bad habits or have learned incorrectly or get lazy or a combination of those things. That makes them think about other parts of their pitch, their release, their stand and all that and they get a little sloppy on their footwork and what happens is they tend to come upward instead of outward towards the plate, so they end up being airborne and leaping in the air which is illegal. Leaping is illegal, crow hopping is illegal, replanting so that you have a push point closer to the plate than what the pitcher’s plate is, is illegal. Those have been the things over the course of the season that have been more typically called this year than the lane issues we have had in the past.”
Was there an increased emphasis on that (pitching legally) at some point prior to or during the season?
“There was. During the season there was more emphasis placed on it. We felt pretty good about what we’ve done with the pitching lane and we are still trying to work on umpires enforcing all the rules the way they are written. We ask them to do the job well and enforce what is written.
“One of the things that has probably played into this a little bit is the softball umpire improvement program. It was able to go live this year with a website where a high percentage of our umpires, and certainly everyone that you see in the postseason, is able to go online and watch video and see diagrams and go, “Okay, I get that. That makes more sense to me now.” Now they go out on the field and do a better job.
“In some cases pitchers and coaches weren’t ready for that. They didn’t see that coming or didn’t anticipate such a difference in the game, so we had a lot of illegal pitches called in early February and early March. We sent out a clarification sheet to our umpires and to our coaches about working harder and getting ourselves legal and in the game. Still at the same time we know our pitchers are working on it. It’s going to take some time so give the benefit of the doubt to the pitcher. If she is attempting to be legal and she is fractionally off the ground and you almost have to slow it down to see it, she’s legal. Only call an illegal pitch if she’s clearly not legal. That’s kind of where we’ve been. I’m sure you’ve seen it (illegal pitches being called) in the super regionals and the regional and the conference tournaments. Two years ago you never saw illegal pitches in the box scores. Now you see it because umpires have stepped up their game to try to get that balance back of pitchers doing what they need to do. When they do pitch illegally they disadvantage the batter and we don’t want that to happen. That’s where the issues have come up. I can tell you that the pitchers don’t want to be illegal, the coaches don’t want them to be, the umpires don’t want them to be, the fans don’t want them to be, but the reality is you have to call the rules the way they are. We are all working on it together. Sometimes you’ve got some rough spots.”
On whether this game (Arizona vs. Tennessee) will be reviewed and discussed?
“We talk about good things and what we can do a little bit better. That’s always a piece of just trying to get better while we are here. We’ll talk about illegal pitches, we’ll talk about the strike zone, we’ll talk about outs and safes. It’s a good learning experience for everybody. We always go back and review. Illegal pitches will be a part of it. Ones that we didn’t call, should we have? Ones that we did call, should we have?”
Is consistency what you are looking for?
“Yes. Accurate and consistent are the two things (we are looking for). As we all know from a recent baseball story, we are humans. There are mistakes made on the field by players, by coaches, by umpires, so what can we learn from those and try to get better for the next time.”