Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Ask - NCAA Pitched Ball Lodges in Umpire's Pocket

Our latest Ask the UEFL comes from the NCAA Austin Regional game between Arizona State and Fairfield when a pitched ball lodged in HP Umpire Derek Mollica's pocket. The umpires awarded each runner a base, leaving the ESPN broadcasters questioning both the play and the rule. Fortunately, we've seen this play before on CloseCallSports.com.

With none out and two on (R2, R3), Fairfield pitcher Eli Oliphant's first-pitch fastball eluded Fairfield catcher Matt Venuto and entered HP Umpire Mollica's pocket. Upon calling "Time" and removing the ball from his uniform pocket, Mollica awarded Arizona's two baserunners one base each, allowing the runner from third to score and R2 to advance to third base.

The college rule is NCAA 6-4-d, which states, "The ball becomes dead and base runners advance one base without liability to be put out when a pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s equipment other than the catcher’s glove and remains out of play, or goes over, through or wedges in the field fence or padding.

At the professional level (MLB/MiLB), Official Baseball Rule 5.06(c)(7) declares, "The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when a pitched ball lodges in the catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, or in or against the umpire’s body, mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, runners advance one base."

For good measure, NFHS/high school's rule is 5-1-1g.4: "Ball becomes dead immediately when a pitch or any other thrown ball lodges in an umpire’s, catcher’s or offensive player’s equipment or uniform."

In 2018, we were treated to two such plays. On July 27, 2018, HP Umpire CB Bucknor ruled a lodged ball when White Sox pitcher Thyago Vieira's 1-2 fastball lodged against the umpire's body, and nearly two months earlier, HP Umpire Dan Bellino ruled similarly when Rockies pitcher Mike Dunn's offering lodged between the umpire's arm and body.


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