Thursday, February 22, 2024

Tagged Runner Returns to 1B - Placing the Ole Miss Call

With none out and a runner on first in the bottom of the 12th inning of Hawaii's home game against Ole Miss, Rainbow Warriors batter Matthew Miura flied out to right field as baserunner R1 Ben Zeigler-Namoa jogged into second base, with Rebels fielders both tagging R1 and appealing his failure to tag up at first base. Upon video review, Miura was returned—safely—to first base with batter-runner Miura out. Why?

Succinctly, replays indicate that as R1 held between first and second base and Ole Miss RF Treyson Hughes ranged over to catch the batted ball, the first base umpire, having run into the outfield to officiate the fly ball, signaled "safe" as in "no catch". Thus when R1 cruised into second base and stayed there, only to be tagged and appealed-on, Namoa responded by pointing to the umpire and indicating the erroneous "safe" mechanic.

NCAA/college's rulebook holds two outcomes for getting the call right in Appendix E—one for crew consultations without video review, and one for video review calls.

Both scenarios play out similarly in terms of correcting an erroneous initial call: "If the reversing of a call results in the need for decisions on the placement of base runners, the umpire crew shall use their best judgment to determine their locations as if the call had been made correctly."

OBR 8.02(c) is similar: "If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play," while NFHS 10-2-l/high school grants umpires-in-chief the authority to "rectify any situation in which an umpire's decision that was reversed has placed either team at a disadvantage."

The general principle here is that no player shall be placed in jeopardy because they relied on an umpire's incorrect initial call. Accordingly, R1 was returned to first base and the batter declared out, the crew deeming via review that had U1 called the batter out initially, R1 would have most likely returned to first base safely.

As a footnote, what may have contributed to U1's error was the right fielder's glove, which was white or grey in color, similar to the baseball's hue. Although NCAA rules do not restrict non-pitcher fielders in their glove color, OBR 3.07(a) states that "no fielder regardless of position may use a fielding glove that falls within a PANTONE color set lighter than the current 14-series." This applies to most white and grey colored gloves and, had this occurred during a professional game, would likely apply here as well.

Video as follows:

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.

Video as follows:

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Batter-Runner Interference at UCF? A College Question

A batter-runner ran into a catcher attempting to throw out a baserunner during Friday's Bryant vs UCF game, a no-call ruled legal by HP Umpire Daniel Jimenez who deemed UCF batter Mikey Kluska did not interfere with Bryant catcher Jackson Phinney during a bunt attempt.

With a runner on first and none out in the 7th inning of a close 11-10 game, Kluska dropped down a bunt on the first pitch he saw, presumably a sacrifice attempt. But as catcher Phinney fielded the ball and attempted a throw to second base, a hindering action occurred as batter-runner Kluska ran into the catcher.

To determine whether or not this is interference requires a visit to the rulebook.

NCAA Rule 8-5-d states that a runner is out when they commit interference, specifically when—"The runner interferes intentionally with a throw or thrown ball, or interferes with a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball. If a double play is likely, and the runner intentionally interferes with the fielder who is attempting to field or throw the ball, both runner and batter-runner shall be declared out."

Had this play occurred in MLB/MiLB, the rule is somewhat similar. For instance, OBR 5.09(b)(3) puts the runner out when "they intentionally interfere with a thrown ball; or hinder a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball," while the rule dedicated to interference, OBR 6.01(a), in provision (10) puts a runner out for interference when "He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a
batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball." We must return to 5.09(a)(13) to see this also applies to a fielder in the act of throwing: "...intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play."

High school treats this play similarly pursuant to NFHS 8-4-2g: "any runner is out when the runner intentionally interferes with a throw or a thrown ball."

With all rulesets roughly the same, we concentrate on our sequence. We notice the catcher appears to field the batted ball successfully, prior to the batter-runner/catcher collision. Thus, the catcher's right of way protection during a batted ball has expired, because the ball is no longer a batted ball, having been fielded.

Instead, the batter-runner/catcher interaction occurs during the attempted throwing phase of play, meaning the more stringent standard of intentionality applies. If the batter-runner's actions are deemed intentional, this is interference and, conceivably, the dead ball can result in a double play if the umpire deems circumstances are appropriate. But if the hindrance is deemed unintentional—an unfortunate tangle and nothing more—then the rules do not support an interference call in this case.

Video as follows: