During the course of a game, and a season, a lot of things can go wrong when it comes to lineup cards. One of those situations involves an inaccurate lineup card. It is important to know what constitutes an illegal lineup card and how it differs from other violations.
An inaccurate lineup card is one in which a starting player or substitute is listed incorrectly, such as an inaccurate name, inaccurate number or wrong position number.
Too often, coaches, and even some umpires, confuse this situation with an illegal substitute (which will be described later). The penalties are much more severe for an illegal substitute so it is important for umpires to know the difference. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to an inaccurate lineup card is the player’s name takes precedence over the uniform number. If the player’s name is listed correctly, but the uniform number is listed incorrectly, it’s the name that matters. For example, if Jones is listed as the leadoff batter and the number listed is No. 1, but she is actually wearing No. 2, that spot on the lineup card belongs to Jones, not to whoever is wearing No. 2. However, the lineup card is still inaccurate and susceptible to a penalty if brought to the attention of the umpire. For purposes of this article, we are only going to examine if the number on the lineup card is inaccurate.
When it comes to the penalty for an inaccurate lineup card, it varies by code. In NFHS, the first offense is simply a warning to the offending team. The next occurrence results in the head coach of that team being restricted to the dugout (3-1-3 Pen.).
In NCAA play, the penalties vary depending on the time it is reported. If the offensive team reports the infraction on its own player or if the defensive team is in violation but the player has not yet made a play (or if the offending player has made a play but another pitch has been thrown to a following batter) the coach may correct the information without penalty. One thing to note — if the pitcher or catcher is in violation, a pitch is considered a play (8.3.2 Eff. a).
If reported by the offensive team immediately after the offending player makes a play on defense, the card is corrected and the offensive coach can take the result of the play or nullify the play and have the batter assume the ball and strike count attained before the infraction was reported and each baserunner returns to the last base occupied prior to the pitch (8.3.2 Eff. b).
If reported by the defense during the offending player’s turn at bat, the lineup card is corrected without penalty and all runs scored and bases run are legal and the batter remains at bat (8.3.2 Eff. c)
If reported by the defense immediately after the offending player’s turn at bat, before a pitch is thrown to the next batter and before all infielders have vacated their position, the offending player is ruled out, all results from the batted ball are nullified (runners are returned to the last base occupied prior to the pitch), and the next batter due up is the batter who immediately follows the offending player (8.3.2 Eff. d).
If reported by the defense after the offending player’s turn at bat and a pitch has been delivered to the following batter, the statute of limitations has expired and there is no penalty. The card is corrected and all play stands (8.3.2 Eff. e).
If the inaccurate lineup card is reported by the defensive team while the offending player is on offense as a pinch runner or the tiebreaker runner, and it follows a pitch in which the baserunner has advanced one or more bases and before the next pitch is thrown, the offending player is called out, any advancement by other runners is nullified and the card is corrected. In all other cases involving runners who have not batted but are baserunners, the card is corrected without penalty (8.3.2 Eff. f, g).
In USA Softball and USSSA, the penalties are the same for an inaccurate lineup card involving an inaccurate number. In both codes, there is no penalty. The umpire will simply correct the card without penalty (USA Softball 4-1a-1; USSSA 5-1, 5.C).
Play 1: In the top of the eighth inning, using the tiebreaker rule, the offensive coach puts Smith in to run at second base. Smith is listed as No. 1 on the lineup card, but is actually wearing No. 11. The defensive coach alerts the umpire to the infraction (a) prior to a pitch being thrown to the leadoff batter, (b) after three pitches have been thrown to the leadoff batter, or (c) after the leadoff batter hits a single, which scores Smith, but before a pitch is thrown to the next batter. Ruling 1: In (a) and (b), according to NFHS rules, the lineup card will be corrected and the offensive coach is given a warning. In NCAA, USA Softball and USSSA, the lineup card is corrected and there is no penalty. In (c), according to NFHS, the coach is given a warning and all play stands. In NCAA, Smith would be ruled out, the batter remains at first and the lineup card is corrected. In USA Softball and USSSA, there is no penalty and the lineup card is corrected.
Play 2: After one pitch, the offensive coach alerts the umpire the leadoff batter is wearing a replacement uniform due to blood and the player’s number should be No. 3 instead of No. 11, which is listed on the lineup card. Ruling 2: In NFHS, the number is corrected on the card and the offensive coach is given a warning. In NCAA play, since the offensive coach corrected it before the at-bat was completed, the card is corrected without penalty. In USA Softball and USSSA, the card is corrected without penalty, regardless of when the infraction occurs.
Play 3: The DP is batting in the third spot in the batting order. In the fourth inning, the offensive coach puts the flex in to bat in the fourth spot in the batting order. The flex reaches first base safely. Prior to a pitch being thrown to the next batter, the defensive coach tells the umpire the flex batted in the wrong spot. Ruling 3: Ideally, the umpire would not have allowed the offensive coach to make this substitution as the flex is required to bat in the DP’s spot in the lineup. By allowing the flex to hit in another spot, this becomes an illegal substitution, not an inaccurate lineup card. In NFHS, the player is ruled out and restricted to the dugout for the remainder of the game (3-4-2 Pen.). In NCAA, the player is called out and ejected (220.127.116.11.3b Eff.). In USA Softball, the player is called out and disqualified for the remainder of the game (4-6c-3, 4-6f-2). In USSSA, the player is ruled out and the player and head coach are both ejected (5-7d Pen.).
It is important for umpires to know the difference between an inaccurate lineup card and other issues that may crop up, such as unreported substitutes or illegal substitutes. The penalties for an illegal substitute are much stiffer and depending on the code, could lead to an ejection. Make sure you take the time to study up on this rule and its associated penalties so you can quickly fix the error and move on without much difficulty.
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