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Inside the PD: VHSL says umpire erred in Friday softball showdown

The home plate umpire in Friday’s Menchville-Gloucester softball game was incorrect when he told Monarchs coach Tim Dragone to remove his pitcher on his third visit to the mound, the rules interpreter for the VHSL said on Monday.

Citing the NFHS Softball Case Book, VHSL co-director of athletics Tom Dolan said a pitcher must be removed upon a coach’s fourth visit to the mound — not the third, as the umpire had ruled. The is no formal protest, however, so the Dukes’ 5-1 win will stand.

“I think that ruling had a huge effect on the game,” Dragone said. “But like I said, they won the game. I just wanted to get it clear and make sure I wasn’t doing something wrong.

“I’m not trying to start a controversy. I’m just trying to get the right call for future reference.”

The ruling came in the top of the sixth inning with two out and a Gloucester runner at second base. Dragone wanted to intentionally walk Hannah Joyce, the Dukes’ lead-off hitter, and pitch to freshman Shelby Alto. But when Dragone came out for his third charged visit, the umpire ruled he had to replace Bria Mizell as pitcher.

Saying he was playing under protest, Dragone brought Darby Deanhofer in from right field. She got out of the inning when Dez’re Maynora was thrown out trying to steal third base.

But in the next inning, Deanhofer walked four and gave up two hits, including a single to right that Mizell lost in the sun. The Dukes’ lead went from 2-1 to 5-1.

Friday’s confusion apparently stemmed from the language in the NFHS Rule Book, which reads, “After three charged conferences in a seven-inning game … the pitcher shall be removed as pitcher for the duration of the game.” Dragone took “after three” to mean he would have to remove her on the fourth.

Dolan said the NFHS Case Book, which puts the rules into situations for interpretation, makes it clear that a pitcher must be removed on the fourth visit.

“The case book is pretty specific in all of its references,” Dolan. “You get three (visits), then you switch on the fourth. So ‘after three’ is being interpreted as the fourth conference.”

But Don Ellis, commissioner of the Peninsula softball umpires association, disagrees. He still believes the rule calls for the removal of a pitcher on the third mound visit.

“We’re going strictly by the rule book,” he said. “That’s it. I don’t want to hear anything else about it. We’re going strictly by the rule book, and the rule book says three and you’re gone. To heck with the case book. We go strictly by the rule book.”

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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