OKLAHOMA CITY -- The NCAA is considering a change to its softball rules that would allow a defensive team to choose a penalty if a runner leaves base before the pitcher releases the ball.
The proposal would allow the defensive team to have the runner called out and replay the pitch -- as the rules currently require -- or take the result of the play if that's more advantageous.
The change is one of several proposals that will be considered by the NCAA's playing rules oversight panel on July 13.
"The old rule, because it was a dead ball, the play never happened so you never got to take advantage of it," said Dee Abrahamson, the NCAA's secretary-rules editor for softball. "By making it a delayed dead ball, now the defense can choose: Do you want the penalty you've always had, or do you want the result of the play?"
The proposal is aimed at giving the defense a bigger benefit as a result of the offense breaking the rules.
Under current rules, if a player left early and then got caught off base on a line-drive double play, it would only result in the runner being out and the hitter would get to try again because the play would have been ruled dead at the moment the runner stepped off base.
Abrahamson said there are other ways the defense would be able to use the proposed rule for an advantage, including letting a slower runner advance to second after leaving early but getting an out against a faster runner who was likely to steal. Or maybe taking a strikeout against a slugger instead of the baserunning out.
"There's some that are really simple like the double play. It's obvious," Abrahamson said. "But some other ones, people are going to maybe have to think about a little bit. What do I really want?"
The rules committee has also asked schools to test out a new softball during their fall games. It has a higher coefficient of restitution and a lower compression, meaning it could be a livelier ball but have a softer impact when it hits a player.
Another proposal would remove the requirement that a hitter try to get out of the way of a pitch that's thrown into the batter's box. Abrahamson said it was previously rejected by the oversight panel out of concerns that it would cause injuries if players felt encouraged to get hit by pitches.