NCAA panel approves experimental double-first-base rule in softball

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel gave the go-ahead Thursday for teams to begin experimenting with a double first base next season.

The base, which is used in amateur leagues and during the Olympics, is twice the normal size, with half in the field of play for the first baseman and half in the base path for the runner.

In theory, the oversized bag would cut down on collisions.

Base specifications and rules will be introduced later. Both teams would have to agree to use the experimental base during spring games or fall competitions and submit a waiver request.

Teams would then have to collect data on its use to provide the NCAA Softball Rules Committee.

Texas coach Mike White, who is on the Rules Committee, said in June that using the double base in college play would be a “good thing.”

“I remember a regional we had at home when I was with Oregon against Minnesota with their player [Sara] Groenewegen, who was a hitter and a pitcher, who was in a collision and had a concussion from a throw down the line,” White said. “I think if you look at baseball, they don’t have it, but they have 90 feet. We have only 60 feet. A lot of the players are close. They’re bang-bang. I just think it’s something that we should bring in.”

White said he’d read a study in which umpires were in favor of the double base. But some coaches are lukewarm on the idea.

Oklahoma’s Patty Gasso, whose Sooners won back-to-back Women’s College World Series, said she’s “not leaning one way or another.”

“I certainly don’t want people to get hurt, but it really hasn’t ever, that I can remember, affected our program in that way,” she said.

Oregon State coach Laura Berg said at the WCWS, “Without a doubt, we need that 100%.”

“I would love that,” said Oregon State infielder Frankie Hammoude. “Actually in that COVID year, I had an injury with a collision at first base, so if there was a safety bag, it probably would have ended up a little differently.

“I don’t see why we should make it any different than the international level and every other — almost every other level.”