IHSA Announces 2021 Softball State Finals

During the April 2021 IHSA Executive Board meeting the board approved the dates and location of the 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A softball state finals.

Softball State Finals

June 16: Class 1A & 2A State Finals at Louisville Slugger in Peoria
June 17: Class 3A & 4A State Finals at Louisville Slugger in Peoria

The Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria, IL provides ten outdoor, fully synthetic fields. Two of those ten fields are considered “championship fields” seating 1,300 people with a video board and concert sound. The venue also provides two 200′ fully synthetic fields under a dome for play in inclement weather.

A full-service restaurant and bar, a team shop, shaded bleachers, scoreboards on every field, well-maintained restrooms, and live streaming capabilities at every field make the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex an ideal location for such an event.

stadium 1 field aerial photo
Louisville Slugger Stadium 1

IHSA Mask Guidance

Earlier today Tracie Henry, Assistant Executive Director of Softball for the IHSA, released additional guidance on mask-wearing during high school softball contests. Following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health the following guidance was provided:

Officials must wear a mask when:

  • Entering and exiting the field
  • During the pre-game meeting
  • During close conversation with coaches, team personnel, or conferring with other umpires

Officials do not need to wear a mask when:

  • When changing in a locker room or at your vehicle
  • While actively officiating the game

Futhermore, umpires are not responsible for monitoring mask requirements or social distance expectations in the bench/dugout area or with spectators. Those responsibilities fall upon coaches and school administrators.

EPG Returns to CISassigning for 2022

El Paso-Gridley Banner
El Paso-Gridley High School

El Paso-Gridley becomes the first of the Heart of Illinois Conference schools to return to CISassigning for the 2022 season.

After discussion with El Paso-Gridley, CISassigning will be handling contests for the district for the Spring of 2022. The game schedule has been provided and is available on the Available Games page. Because these dates are in 2022, and the Spring 2021 season is still being sorted out, these games will not be assigned until the weekend of April 17, 2021 at the earliest.

If you are a CISassigning umpire and are interested in applying for games, please do so within the next week. If you know umpires who might be interested in joining the CISassigning umpire ranks, please direct them to the Registration page.

Where’s the Strike Zone?

This month Referee magazine, a publication of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) published an article titled A Mathematical Dive Into the Strike Zone. It’s a good, quick read and I encourage you to follow the link to review it.

As I read the article, I started to think about how we envision the strike zone. Of course we have to be in the slot to see the entire plate, but beyond that, what visualizations do you use to imagine the strike zone? Or do you not use any? I’m curious about your techniques and I invite you to leave comments below to share with others.

For coaches that may read this, what do you tell your players? How do you help them recognize a pitch and what techniques do you teach them to help them analyze if a pitch will be a ball or strike?

We know that player height varies, as does their stance…and they don’t stand still. Some players get set later than others and it’s our job as umpires to get our eyes set at the top of that player’s strike zone when they’re in their stance. How many times have you had a player get set, you set your stance to be looking at the top of the zone, then when the pitch comes, the crouch lower? Heaven forbid you call a strike at the top of the previously set zone when that happens. The player may roll her eyes or sigh, coaches display their frustration…then there’s the fans. Of course you’ll hear from them too.

Once the player is set and establishes the strike zone with their stance, and you get set, that’s it. The zone height doesn’t adjust because they crouch more or stand taller. The same is true with a slapper. They’re constantly moving, let alone running parallel to the ball in the opposite direction. As they run forward to slap, their bodies bouncing up and down with each step, you really have to rely on being set eye-level at the top the zone they established and when in their stance.

So, where IS the strike zone?

The height varies from player to player, but we know the width isn’t changing. It’s the width of the plate (17 inches), plus the diameter of the ball (3.82 inches) on either side of the plate, for a total of 24.64 inches.

As umpires, we also move between governing bodies. One day you may be doing a 12u summer game, the next day an NCAA game, and later that week a high school game. That can make it difficult. Luckily, almost all non-NCAA organizations have a very similarly defined strike zone: armpits to knees (though NFHS and USSSA say the “front armpit”). NCAA sets the top of the zone at the bottom of the sternum, so the zone is typically a few inches shorter than other organizations.

Image courtesy of NASO. NCAA edit – CISassigning.

Call a high strike in an NCAA game and you’ll certainly hear about it, especially if you keep calling it there.

So the question persists: As you take your stance and lock in your height at the top of the zone, what do you visualize to help you track that pitch toward the strike zone and make your determination on ball vs. strike?

Behind the Mask – Episode 109: Providing Clear Expectations

It’s vitally important for umpires, schools, organizations, and assignors to be on the same page. The best way to do that is to document the expectations of all parties so they are openly available and transparently conveyed.

Learn about how CISassigning provides this to parties that use our service, and some of the key points contained within the document.

Visit www.cisassigning.com to learn more. You must be registered on the site to access the document at https://www.cisassigning.com/cisa-expectations-operations/

Unedited Podcast Transcript

Expectations and Operations Review

Now that the IHSA season is about to begin, this is a reminder to review the CISassigning Expectations and Operations document before the season begins. Even if you’re an experienced official or AD, you should review this document annually.

The Expectations and Operations document lays out how CISassigning works and clarifies expectations for umpires, schools, and organizations that use CISassigning’s services. The first half of the document is for umpires. The second half is for organizations that I assign for. Everything is included in a single document for transparency. Use the Table of Contents to help navigate the document.

You must have a CISassigning account to access this document. If you have questions after reviewing the document, please reach out to me.

Website Updates

Four website pages that used to be publicly available are now restricted to members of CISA who are signed in. Members include registered umpires and school personnel, organization representatives, and coaches for schools that have contracted assigning services with CISassigning.

Those restricted pages include:

I take pride in educating members of the softball community, and am happy to provide these services to those persons who register with the site. There are very few websites that provide these services, communications/updates, or detailed documentation for softball coaches, umpires, ADs, and organizations.

One of the requirements of membership is that members give back to the softball community. Recently there have been instances of persons or organizations that have leveraged these tools for their own benefit without giving back, as well as malicious actors attempting to disrupt site functionality. With an annual cost of over $500 to host, run, and maintain this site, I must protect its resources to keep them available.

In the coming days site membership will be reviewed and updated to ensure that only registered umpires and schools or organizations that use CISassigning’s services have access to the site.

If you know of umpires that would like to be a part of the CISassigning group, please encourage them to register on the site or contact me at [email protected]. Remember that umpires are not charged to be a part of the assigning group or to access this site.

If you are a school or organization that would like CISassigning to assign for you, you can visit the Have CISA Assign For You page.

NCAA Rule Adjusts Helmet Rule

Due to COVID-19 and an attempt to keep student-athletes safe, the NCAA has adjusted its helmet rule for this season only.

Effective immediately, student-athletes may wear their personal helmets even if they do not match team colors. This rule adjustment only applies if the personal helmet meets NCAA helmet safety requirements.