Oklahoma softball doesn’t need any help from the umpires or the NCAA rulebook, but they unfairly got it during their 13-2 blowout on the first day of the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
While the actual outcome of the play ultimately didn’t matter that much (because the Sooners are otherworldly good), it is something that the NCAA should take a look at the next time the rules committee comes together to vote on proposed rule changes.
Rylie Boone’s Controversial Velcro Strap “Hit By Pitch”
Look, I am a huge nerd when it comes to softball. The rules matter because even the tiniest details of a play like this one can have a massive effect on a game’s outcome.
Oklahoma’s Rylie Boone thought she was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and her team up 8-1 against Northwestern. The call on the field was originally that she wasn’t, but the play was reviewed and eventually reversed to give her first base.
Why? Because the pitch hit a loose velcro strap that was hanging from her elbow guard.
If that sounds unfair to you, it’s because it is. Even the broadcast team of Beth Mowins, Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith and Holly Rowe chimed in about it.
“I think it’s not fair for pitchers,” one said.
“I don’t know if it’s a rule change here but I think it needs to be reconsidered,” another said.
So, what do the actual rules say about this call?
The NCAA Rules Need Clarification
According to the NCAA rulebook, the batter is awarded first base when a pitch “neither swung at nor called a strike, is entirely within the batter’s box and it strikes the batter or their clothing.”
Is an elbow guard considered clothing in the same way a baggy jersey is? Is a loose strap hanging down still considered clothing? I read on in the rulebook only to find the term “attached equipment,” which is separate from clothing.
To me, the NCAA needs a rule to clarify a play like this. If not, what’s stopping a batter from hanging over home plate with the largest strap of all time hanging loose to get pelted by and awarded first base? How about wearing an XXXL elbow guard and getting hit more? Something ain’t right here.
No, the call didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. The hit-by-pitch did push home the run needed for a run-rule at the time, but it didn’t matter. Oklahoma hit two grand slams in this game and proved why they’re the team to beat.
Let’s hope we don’t have any more “loose strap” calls in a close game this WCWS.