BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- With conference play set to begin this weekend in Southeastern Conference baseball, the SEC will expand the use of official replay review to include six additional plays as allowed by the NCAA and implement a new experimental challenge system for head coaches.
Under existing NCAA baseball replay rules, there are six umpire calls that may be reviewed. At the SEC's request, for the 2018 season the NCAA is permitting the SEC to review six additional calls on an experimental basis as well as utilize a head coach challenge system. Because the rule is experimental, the additional calls and challenge system can only be used in conference games.
The new guidelines expand the number of plays that can be reviewed to include:
- Force/Tag Play Calls: Force and tag play calls involving the batter or batter runner acquiring the base prior to the defensive player's attempt to put out the batter runner or runner at any base (including first base).
- Specified Base Running Calls: Calls involving whether a base runner passes a preceding runner before such runner is out; and upon an appropriate appeal by the defensive team, whether a base runner touched a base.
- Hit-by-Pitch Calls: Play involving a batter and whether a pitched ball touches a batter or his clothing (hit by pitch).
- Tag-Up Plays: Deciding if a runner failed to retouch his base after a ball is legally caught before he or his base is tagged by a fielder at all bases.
- Placement of Runners: The umpire's placement of a batter runner or runners following a boundary call.
- Interference for the Purpose of Breaking up a Double Play (Force Play Slide Rule)
The umpire crew chief may initiate review of these six aforementioned calls with a head coach's challenge at any time during a game or at the crew chief's discretion beginning with the eighth inning (or the sixth inning of a prescribed seven-inning game).
Six permanent reviewable calls will remain in effect for all games - both non-conference and conference games. These are the same plays that were permitted to be reviewed during the 2017 season. The permanent reviewable calls include:
- Specified Fair/Foul Ball Calls: Deciding if a batted ball is fair or foul. The ball must first touch the ground or a fielder beyond the initial position or the first or third baseman.
- Potential Home Run Calls: Deciding if a batted ball is either a ground rule double or a home run.
- Catch Plays in the Outfield: Any catch or no catch in the outfield or foul territory.
- Catch Plays in the Infield: A call of "no catch" can be changed to "catch" within the infield only if it results in a third out with any runner on base, or any time with a batter runner only.
- Spectator interference: An umpire's decision on whether spectator interference occurred.
- Scoring Plays at Home Plate (including collisions): Deciding scoring plays at home plate inclusive of collisions (illegal and/or malicious slides) or time plays.
The umpire crew chief may initiate review of the aforementioned permanent reviewable calls at his discretion at any time in any game. They may also be reviewed with a head coach challenge during conference games.
Under the experimental head coach challenge rule, a coach is allowed two challenges per conference game regardless of whether the challenge is successful or not. Once a team has exhausted its available head coach challenges, it can no longer challenge any additional play or call in the game.
The SEC also received approval from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel for the use of wireless coach-to-catcher communication devices. The experimental rule is being allowed to see if the technology improves the pace of play.
All 14 SEC teams will open conference play on Friday.