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Photo Credit: Bob Messina

The NFHS Softball Rules Committee approved a change in the penalty for an illegal pitch starting with the 2018-19 school year. An illegal pitch will result in a ball being awarded to the batter and there will be no accompanying one-base award to runners on base.
The committee made that change and more at its June 11-13 meeting in Indianapolis. All recommended changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
Special thanks to Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and staff liaison for softball, for reviewing this article.

Illegal Pitches (6-1-1 Pen., 6-1-2 through 4 Pen., 6-2-1 Pen., 6-2-7 Pen.)

The committee changed the penalty for an illegal pitch to create more balance between offense and defense.

“Previously all baserunners were advanced one base as well as a ball being called on the batter,” Searcy said. “The approved change removes the advancement of baserunners. Considering that an illegal pitch is designed to hinder the batter, the 2018 NFHS Softball Rules Committee felt that only the batter should receive an advantage from the penalty.”
An illegal pitch remains a delayed-dead ball. The batter will be awarded a ball.
The exceptions are as follows:

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  • If there is an illegal pitch and the batter reaches first base safely and all other runners advance at least one base, the illegal pitch is nullified.
  • If the batter does not reach first base safely or if any baserunner fails to advance at least one base, the coach of the team at bat has the option to take the result of the play or the penalty for the illegal pitch.
  • If the batter is hit by an illegal pitch out of the strike zone, the batter is awarded first base and baserunners advance only if forced by the award to the batter. In prior years, the baserunners were also awarded one base; that is no longer the case.
  • If ball four is an illegal pitch, the batter is awarded first base and the baserunners advance only if forced by the award to the batter. In prior years, this exception also included an automatic award to baserunners; that is no longer the case.

Play 1: With the count 2-2 and a runner on third, the pitcher delivers an illegal pitch. Ruling 1: The batter is awarded a ball. The runner remains at third.

Play 2: With a 1-1 count on B4, no outs and the bases loaded, the pitcher delivers an illegal pitch. The batter hits a ground ball and the defense successful executes a 6-4-3 double play. R1 scores. Ruling 2: The offense may choose to accept the outcome of the play, in which case a run scores, but two outs are recorded. Or, the offense may choose to have the penalty applied for the illegal pitch. In that case, the runners return to their bases at the time of pitch and the batter returns to bat with a 2-1 count.

Play 3: With a 1-1 count on B2, no outs and R1 on first, the pitcher delivers an illegal pitch. F2 does not catch the pitch cleanly and R1 attempts to advance to second base. F2 quickly recovers the ball and the throw to second retires R1. Ruling 3: The offensive coach has the choice of taking the result of the play or enforcing the illegal pitch. If the illegal pitch is enforced, R1 is returned to first and a ball is added to B2’s count.

Play 4: The batter is hit by an illegal pitch that’s in the strike zone. Ruling 4: The offensive coach has the choice of taking the result of the play or enforcing the illegal pitch. If the illegal pitch is enforced, the batter is awarded a ball. The batter will only be awarded first base if the pitch is ball four.

Play 5: With one out, F1 commits an illegal pitch (prior to release of the ball) then R1 leaves early. Ruling 5: It is an immediate dead ball when R1 left second base before F1 released the ball. R1 is out for leaving early. For the illegal pitch, the batter is awarded a ball. If R1 leaves early prior to the illegal pitch, the runner would be out and the illegal pitch nullified because the ball was immediately dead when the runner left early.

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Media Areas (1-1-7, 2-22-4, Table 5-1, 5-1-1o)

This change eliminates the previous media area rule, which created a space that was dead-ball territory only when occupied. Starting with the 2019 season, the media shall be prohibited from being in live-ball area. The home team or game management may designate an area for the media in dead-ball territory.

Play 6: A news media photographer demands that the umpires designate an area on the field for him to take photos/video of the game. Ruling 6: Game management is no longer required to designate an onfield media area. Game management should direct the photographer to an area within dead-ball territory.

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Play 7: An errant throw goes into a media area in dead-ball territory. The media area (a) was occupied, or (b) was vacant. Ruling 7: In (a) and (b), the ball is dead and runners are awarded bases as appropriate. Media areas are designated as dead-ball territory regardless of whether or not they are occupied.

Face Shields (1-8-4)

Defensive players are permitted to attach eye shields to face/head protection worn in the field, but the shield must be clear and permit 100 percent (no tint) allowable light transmission.

Players were already prohibited from wearing tinted or reflective eye shields on batting helmets or catcher’s masks. This rule change extends that prohibition to the face/head protection.

Play 8: A fielder takes the field wearing a protective facemask with a tinted eye shield. Ruling 8: The umpire shall instruct the player to remove the tinted eye shield. While eye shields are permitted on face/head protection, they must be clear and allow all light to pass through.

Adjustable Knobs (1-5-2a)

The committee clarified that a bat with an adjustable knob (as seen in the PlayPic above) is permissible, provided the knob is permanently fastened by the manufacturer.

Editorial Changes

Intentional Walk (2-65-2). Last year, the committee approved intentional walks that did not require the pitcher to throw four pitches out of the strike zone. The defensive team can request, at any time during the at-bat, that the batter be awarded first base. The committee clarified that once the umpire awards an intentional walk, there can be no appeal of a play that occurred prior to that award. The intentional walk is treated just as if the pitcher had pitched the ball.

Play 9: On a preceding play, a runner missed touching third base on the way to scoring. As the next batter enters the box, the catcher requests an intentional walk. The umpire calls time and awards the batter first base. After the award, the team appeals the runner missing third base. Ruling 9: The appeal is not allowed.

Play 10: On a preceding play, a runner missed touching third base on the way to scoring. As the next batter enters the box, the catcher requests an intentional walk. Before the umpire calls time to award the batter first base, the coach of the team on defense says, “We want to appeal the runner missing third base.” Ruling 10: Because the umpire has not yet awarded the batter first base on the intentional walk, the appeal is still valid. The runner will be called out for missing third base.

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Start of the Pitch (6-1-2a, b). The committee also updated rule language to clarify what motion constitutes the start of the pitch and when the step back of the non-pivot foot may be taken. The pitch starts as soon as the pitcher separates her hands.
Appendix H. The committee also added a new appendix which provides quick reference for the DP/FLEX rules.

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Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.

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SOURCEAuthor: Brent Killackey
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