OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The rule was made with good intentions, but if Alabama softball Patrick Murphy had his way it would be back to the drawing board for the NCAA Softball Rules Committee.
Before the 2018 season, the committee approved a rule (11.2.5) that prevents hitters from having any part of her body outside the batter’s box. The result is a dead ball and the batter is out.
It was a response to the old rule, which allowed batter’s to have part of one foot out of the box when making contact.
“At the moment of a bat-ball contact if any part of her body — we originally said foot but we also say knee — she’s out whether it’s fair or foul,” said Vickie Van Kleeck, Softball Secretary Rules Editor. “I think the rule was initially put in place because some people felt that slappers tended to be out of the box a lot and they were using more of the box than a regular hitter was allowed to use.”
Players affected by this rule are slappers like Alabama’s Elissa Brown. Four times over two games in last week’s super regional she was called out for leaving the box early.
“She worked out with assistant coaches, who threw pitch after pitch off the plate and put a barrier where she couldn’t come across and she was never out of the box,” Murphy said. “We get into the game and that anxiousness comes in and it wears on a kid.”
The difficulty comes with consistency in making the call, done by the home-plate umpire. Sometimes it’s called, other times it’s not.
“It’s been huge,” Murphy said of the rule. “It’s probably going to lead to the death of the slapper, unfortunately. The umpires don’t even like it. Before, when I’d say (to the umpire) ‘she’s out of the box,’ he’d say, ‘what do you want me to watch the pitch or the slapper?’ I think it should go back to the old rule where the whole foot had to be out of the box.
“It’s a tough rule and I think it’s going to be debated a lot in the offseason. The committee is going to have to look at it really, really hard.”
Kleeck said the committee hasn’t received any feedback that would necessitate any changes to the rule.