The rule that deals with projected substitutions was changed in the 2018-2019 rule book. The new wording now allows substitutes to be reported to the umpire without being required to immediately participate in the game. The rationale and intent of this new wording changes two situations which in the past were considered projected substitutions, but now are not considered projected substitutions
• A coach may report more than one change in the batting order at the beginning of the inning
• A coach may re-enter the DP before her next at bat.
Pre-game meeting and lineups are official
Email exchanges with Dee Abrahamson, who at the time was the NCAA Softball Rules Editor:
Question: At the pre-game meeting with coaches, after the lineups have been made official, it is common practice for the plate umpire to ask both coaches if they have any changes to the lineups. It is not uncommon for one or both of the teams to state: “yes, my DP is now playing defense for my Flex and we are going down to 9 players.”
We have taken this change without regard to whether it is the home or visiting team making the change. Now, with all the discussion about projected substitutions, I am wondering…would it not be a projected substitution if the visiting team makes this change at the end of the pre-game meeting? They are not going on defense until the bottom half of the 1st inning. Do we need to stop asking coaches at the pre-game meeting if they have any changes now that the lineups are official? Even if we do not ask, it is likely that the visiting coach will still want to make that change. Can we accept it?
Ruling from Dee: Umpire do not need to change your protocol. You may accept any DP/Flex changes at the pre-game meeting after the lineups are official.
Substitute will bat and stay in game
Offensive coach tells the plate umpire that #21 is batting for #11 (who is currently listed as playing RF). Sometimes the coach will state that the sub will stay in the game to play RF; sometimes this is not stated. Umpires do not consider this a projected substitution even though that team is not yet playing defense. Is it?
Ruling: even though #21 is not immediately participating on defense, she is IMMEDIATELY participating at bat. She is being entered on the lineup card as the next immediate batter who will assume her defensive position at the end of the half inning. Telling the umpire that she’s going to play RF after she bats is not a projected sub.
Projected re-entries, i.e., re-entries reported while the substitute is participating (running, batting, playing defense), will continue not to be allowed.
Projected substitutions and the DP/Flex
Play: In the 3rd inning the DP gets a base hit. The coach calls time and brings in the Flex to run for the DP. At the end of the inning when the team is going on defense the coach comes out and informs the umpire she wants to re-enter the DP. Is this considered a projected substitution?
Ruling If a coach wants to return to 10 instead of 9 and put the DP in on defense, he/she should re-enter the DP. Otherwise, the DP does not need to be re-entered until her spot in the batting order comes around again. The coach may want to leave the Flex in this position depending on the situation in the game or he/she may want the DP’s bat back in the lineup.If the coach tries to re-enter the DP, the umpire should ask him/her is the DP going to play defense. If not, then just advise him/her to wait until her spot in the batting order comes back up. Coaches can not make this substitution or others to avoid forgetting to do it when it should be done.
The umpire will never be to blame in this situation and that is supported by rule. This is one of those situations where the coach has the responsibility. Nowhere in the Rules Book does it says it is the umpire’s responsibility to make sure they re-enter a starter in the lineup after she’s been substituted for. (Email from Vickie Van Kleeck 4/29/2016.)