Column: Should NCAA Softball Have Instant Replay Instead Of A Run Rule
Two plays during Louisiana State and Florida’s matchup on Monday night have brought instant replay back to the forefront of the national conversation.
Both plays happened at first base. The first was when Amanda Lorenz stretched to complete a double play but her foot came off the base while making the stretch. The next came in the bottom of the seventh when Lorenz appeared to complete the play at first by a couple steps but the runner was called safe. The call extended the inning and gave LSU the opportunity to rally and win.
Instant replay has been a hot topic for years. It was the center of attention at the 2017 Women's College World Series, where several calls determined the outcome of games. Some of the calls in involved LSU, UCLA, Texas A&M and Oregon. Current Texas head coach Mike White, then at Oregon, spoke out about the need for replay during that tournament.
“I think this tournament has really illustrated it, is the need for the ability to make a challenge,” said White. “There have been so many games decided by some calls that could have gone—I think were incorrect calls to be quite frank, and that made a big difference. This game is played at a high speed. Umpires are human. You should have the ability to challenge a call.”
College baseball, it should be noted, has instant replay. There’s instant replay in the CWS and Supers and this year it’s coming to Regionals. Conferences like the SEC, Big 12 and ACC also have the option of using it during the regular season if they want.
With the increase in ratings across the country for softball, more schools are streaming or televising their games on some type of platform. At the WCWS last year, ESPN used 20-plus cameras including (at least) two with slow-motion systems. We have the technology to use instant replay, why don't we actually use it?
Here is my proposal for instant replay during games that are televised or streamed. Each coach begins with one challenge. If the call is overturned in your favor, you are granted one more. If not, then you have used your only challenge.
The other topic of concern is the run rule. Softball as we know it has always incorporated an eight-run mercy rule, but we've seen multiple teams score more than eight runs in an inning this season. Should softball only use the rule for early-season tournaments? Should the rule disappear during conference play?
We keep comparing our sport to baseball with our television ratings and revenue but if we want to create more of a equal playing field then we should implement some of the other rules they have.
For example, baseball does not use a mercy rule unless it's on Sunday and even that only pertains to certain conferences like the Big 12 and American.
Rodney DeLong, head coach at North Texas, says he would prefer to play without a run-rule possibility.
"I think the way our game has changed offensively leaves an available chance for a team to recover from an eight-run deficit. I understand the time constraint pressure from t.v. but would love to see the run rule removed."
For example, Auburn was down 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth on Sunday to Texas A&M. The Tigers scored 12 runs that inning and went on to win 12-4. If A&M had led 8-0 after the fifth, Auburn wouldn't have the opportunity to score 12 runs at all because the game would've been over.
Think about it: Given a choice, would you rather have instant replay or the eight-run mercy rule?