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Panel approves experimental use of new softball

The recently developed ball will be put into play in fall 2014

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved an experimental rule Wednesday that allows use of a new softball during fall 2014 competition. The new ball is softer but livelier than the softball now used in NCAA championships.

The NCAA Softball Rules Committee, which recommended trying the new softball, is interested in seeing how the ball plays in competition and whether it improves the game. PROP approved the experimental rule during a conference call.

The coefficient of restitution for the new ball, which measures the liveliness of the ball, is 0.52, up from 0.47 for the current softball. And compression, which measures the hardness of the ball, is 275 pounds per square inch in the new ball, a reduction from 350 pounds per square inch for the old.

The rules committee members believe the newly developed softballs have several attractive properties. They will gather feedback later this year from teams that use it to gauge whether the sport would benefit from the newly developed softball.

One of those properties that could be a welcome change is the new ball’s usability in cold weather. Because softballs now used in NCAA play are made with a polyurethane core and a leather cover, the softballs become harder when the temperature drops. The weather shouldn’t affect the newly developed softball as much.

Another attraction is the new ball’s lower severity index, which means a ball that strikes a player will do less tissue damage than if the player was struck with the softball currently in use.

Simplifying Designated Player/Flex Rule

The panel also approved an experimental rule aimed at simplifying the Designated Player/(DP)/Flex rule in the 2014 fall season.

The experimental rule links two players, allowing either to bat and/or run any number of times without a substitution limit. The two players will share a spot in the batting order.

The current 10th line on the lineup card, which is normally reserved for the flex player, won’t exist in the experimental rule.

Under the current DP/Flex rule, those players may both play offense. A player who is playing only defense can go in the game only for a player who plays only offense.

Also under the current rule, the 10 players who start the game are allowed to re-enter into the batting order only once.