“Oh, my God. That’s a five-run swing.”
It’s hard to not feel for Pearl City softball coach Chad Obara, who saw a showdown with powerhouse Campbell turn into a 10-5 loss, fueled in part by the technical side of a pitching rule.
“It’s the first time we’ve faced that type of tough pitching,” Campbell coach Shag Hermosura said. “Especially with ‘Peanut Butter’ (Tyanna Kaaialii) pitching.”
Obara’s pitchers had battled and toiled in the rough OIA West, young Kaaialii and Kristin Frost giving their all. And on a big stage — a statewide TV audience and the big lights at Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park — all it took to spoil the Chargers’ night was a string of illegal pitch calls.
There were at least three by my count against Pearl City and one against Campbell reliever Dani Cervantes with the game basically out of reach at 10-5 in the seventh inning.
With the violations against Pearl City during a key third inning, Campbell broke open a 5-all tie for a 9-5 lead. It wasn’t just the calls that benefited Campbell. The Sabers got clutch hits from one of the most potent hitting attacks in the state. The defending state champions looked the part, and the gift of those illegal pitches didn’t make it easier for Obara and his Chargers.
The rule reads like this:
From the National Federation of High Schools Softball Rules Book
SECTION 1 PITCHING REGULATIONS (F.P.)
ART. 2 . . . About the Pitch:
a. The pitch starts when one hand is taken off the ball or the pitcher makes any motion that is part of the windup after the hands have been brought together.
b. Once the hands are brought together and are in motion, the pitcher shall not take more than one step which must be forward, toward the batter and simultaneous with the delivery. Any step backward shall begin before the hands come together. The step backward may end before or after the hands come together.
PENALTY: (Art. 1) An illegal pitch shall be declared immediately by the umpire (delayed dead-ball signal). The batter is awarded a ball and base runners are awarded one base without liability to be put out.
Obara questions what the definition of “one step” is in reference to Kaaialii.
“When she brings her hands together, she’s stepping back, the umpire told me. But there’s no foot mark there. She slides maybe 3 inches,” Obara said.
Kaaialii was tagged for illegal pitches in the first inning, but Obara felt that she cleaned it up after that. That led to an intense discussion with the base umpire, who stood near first base while Obara stood over the mound. He was unhappy, to say the least, pointing directly at the side of the mound. Obara asked out loud where the mark was. He got no response.
“The first couple (of illegal pitch calls), there’s a little slide when she drops her head down,” Obara said. “But they should get rid of the rule. It depends on the umpire and she’s been doing it all season.”
It’s a situation that doesn’t warrant penalty, in Obara’s eyes, and doesn’t benefit a pitcher whether she puts her hands together or not.
“They should get rid of that rule,” he said.