Fair or foul? In the park or out? Limited college baseball replay review could have changes ahead _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU head coach Paul Mainieri argues the call of home plate umpire Kevin Sweeney after LSU shortstop Alex Bregman (8) was called out at home, Saturday, Apr. 25, 2015 at LSU's Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.

Moments after an extra-innings loss to Mississippi State, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman gestured toward home plate.

“Did he even touch the plate?” Bregman asked.

Running from second base on what was a walk-off single, Jake Vickerson slid around catcher Mike Papierski, who applied a sweeping tag. Home plate umpire Scott Kennedy called Vickerson safe, and the Bulldogs salvaged the series with LSU via the Game 3 win.

Did he touch the plate? Probably not, replay showed.

It didn’t matter anyway: Safe-out calls at any base, including home plate, are not reviewable — and that’s something that might, eventually, change.

“We’re just dipping our toe in the water,” said Damani Leech, managing director of championships and alliances for the NCAA overseeing baseball.

The Southeastern Conference tournament’s arrival this week — the 12- team event begins Tuesday — marks the completion of the league’s first season experimenting with instant replay review during regular-season conference games.

The verdict: It didn’t have much of an impact.

Just 10 calls in 350-plus conference games were reviewed through nine of the first 10 weeks of the regular season, and only one of those was overturned, said Herb Vincent, associate SEC commissioner overseeing baseball. A hit, at first ruled as staying in the park, was overturned to a home run.

The limited number of reviews is, likely, attributed to the small amount of reviewable plays. Some, like LSU coach Paul Mainieri, would like to see the reviewable plays grow. That’s not out of the question, Leech said. But it’s something that must happen at the NCAA level.

The NCAA Division I baseball rules committee will discuss the matter in July, Leech said, and will address two questions: Should the NCAA make replay, for now an experimental policy, permanent but keep it voluntary for conferences? Should the NCAA make additional plays reviewable?

“Plays at the plate may be one of them,” Leech said. “Are plays at the plate more available than plays at first or any other base though? Once you start allowing all of those players, do you open up Pandora’s box? Where do you expand that just doesn’t blow the door open? We don’t want a review of every out-safe call at first base.”

Replay is growing, for sure.

The NCAA began using it at the College World Series in 2012 and started allowing leagues to use it at conference tournaments last year. It began allowing conferences to use it this season, but the SEC was the only conference to use it during regular-season games, Leech said.

The SEC, ACC and West Coast Conference used replay at their season-ending conference tournaments last year, and three more conferences will use replay this week at their conference tournaments: Big Ten, Big 12 and Southern.

All eight best-of-three NCAA tournament super regionals for the first time will have access to replay review this year — with a twist.

Umpires normally review calls by watching a monitor that’s stationed at the ballpark. Super regional reviews will take place off-site at an Atlanta-based control room, Leech said.

If umpires determine a call needs to be reviewed, the crew chief will alert the NCAA national coordinator of officials stationed in the control room, equipped with video feeds from each super regional. The coordinator and the NCAA secretary of rules editor decide whether the call should stand or be overturned.

Major League Baseball’s replay reviews are done in a similar way; the control room is in New York.

“We thought it would be better to have a controlled and centralized replay process (for the super regionals),” Leech said.

So when could more changes come to replay review in baseball? That could happen over the summer.

Leech said the committee, though, is open to expanding replay, and Vincent said he expects, at least eventually, for more plays to become reviewable, especially as facilities improve and increase their camera and video equipment.

For instance, this past season some games weren’t eligible for replay review because of a lack of cameras, Vincent said.

“Not every game has the same amount of camera angles. Some games you have four, some two and some games you have one,” he said. “We knew that going into the year. There have even been some games we haven’t had any video at all.”

Mainieri hopes that side of the review improves. LSU had just one play reviewed this season: Texas A&M’s line drive ruled fair down the right-field line was upheld after Mainieri argued for umpires to review the call.

Coaches can’t challenge call like they can do in MLB or the NFL, but they can ask umpires to huddle and discuss the call to determine whether replay is needed.

“I challenged that one ball down the right-field line against A&M,” Mainieri, “but I knew they weren’t going to change it because their camera work isn’t good enough.”

Reviewable plays include deciding if a home run is fair or foul; if a home run ball left the field of play; if a spectator interfered on a home run; if a ball that hits past first or third base is fair or foul; and if a fielder made a catch on an outfield fly ball.

The last reviewable play was added this season.

Of the SEC’s 10 reviewed plays, six were a review to determine whether a ball was fair or foul ball, two regarded homers leaving the park and there was one each for a fair/foul home run and a catch in the outfield.

One day, maybe some of these will be home plate reviews. Maybe.

“I would love to see every call right,” Mainieri said.

“I don’t care how much it takes.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.