Monday, February 19, 2024

Rain Ejections After Umpires Order Softball Team to Play Through Downpour; Pitcher Can't Find a Grip

A wild argument after umpires refused to call for a rain delay, instead ordering Cal softball to play through a downpour in Louisiana, resulted in multiple ejections when Cal's pitcher couldn't find a grip in the slippery conditions. What's the rule about rain delays and could anything have avoided this flashpoint?

The controversy started when multiple California Bears players knelt in protest during the pre-game National Anthem, prompting heckling from the home crowd and charged emotions before a pitch was even thrown (Friday).

Potential problems continued to brew Sunday as clouds ominously turned grey during a 7th inning Replay Review for a hit-by-pitch vs foul ball play, with the home plate umpire and Cal head coach taking turns exhibiting curt body language cues with each other, indicating the duo might not get along too well if controversy were to occur later on.

The rain ultimately picked up significantly and despite Cal's pitcher appearing wholly unable to get a grip on the softball, and despite her head coach's plea to temporarily stop playing, the umpires opted to continue playing, leading to back-to-back Cal wild pitches allowing Louisiana to tie the game and igniting a near-free for all ending with multiple Cal ejections.

NCAA Softball's Rule pertains to suspension and the resumption of play and states, "Play should be suspended immediately without regard to timing within the inning when spectator or participant safety is compromised (for example, in the event of lightning detected within the danger zone, serious injury to a participant or if players’ footing or grip on the bat or ball is obviously compromised)."

The phrase "obviously compromised" proved controversial to coach and umpire who were already operating on different wavelengths, but it is tough to argue the pitcher's repeated inability to grip the ball in the heavier rain would not meet this threshold.

Instead, play continued until back-to-back wild pitches due to poor grip helped tie the game and ignite the multiple ejections. The multiple ejections that followed delayed the game by several minutes, allowing the heavier problematic rain to pass through the area before play resumed. In other words, when it comes to an issue of delaying the game, an umpire's attempt at getting in the final word to play through can be circumvented by team personnel who can call for their own delay simply by wasting time arguing the rain delay no-call.

With Cal's pitcher once again able to grip the baseball in less-downpourish conditions, the Bears recorded the third out and ultimately won the contest in extra innings.


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