SEC testing instant replay in baseball tournament

Conference follows MLB's lead in expanding reviews

The crack of a bat, and a ball sails high and long down the left-field line at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

It carves toward the grassy berm somewhere in the vicinity of the foul pole, but the third-base umpire doesn’t signal a quick call, unsure of whether it’s a home run or not.

In years past, it would have been a controversial decision based on an eyewitness account from hundreds of feet away.

But at this week’s Southeastern Conference tournament, the decision to rule the ball fair or foul could come from a high-definition close up.

For the first time, the SEC will take advantage of an NCAA decision to allow instant replay on an experimental basis this season.

Tony Thompson, the SEC’s coordinator of baseball officials, said the conference decided to follow major league baseball’s lead when it comes to instant replay.

“We’re trying to use whatever resources we have to get certain calls correct if there is some doubt that they are correct,” he said. “The tournament seemed the most logical place because every game is on TV.”

Instant replay in the SEC tournament will differ from the major league version in that there will be no coaches challenges and it will only be used for certain rulings:

  • Deciding if a home run is fair or foul.
  • Deciding if a ball is a home run or stayed within the playing field.
  • Fan interference on home run balls.
  • Deciding if a ball is fair or foul.

To be used, a game’s crew chief will have to decide whether instant replay is needed to make a call. He and other members of the umpiring crew as needed will go to a designated video replay area near the field to see if conclusive video evidence is available from the cameras covering the game.

Once a determination is made, the decision will be final, and the head coaches will not be allowed to argue the decision.

Despite those limitations, LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he’s behind the use of instant replay.

“I’m a big fan of getting calls right,” Mainieri said Monday as his team practiced at Alex Box Stadium before leaving for the tournament. “Whether they use instant replay or not, I think every coach would like to see the calls made correctly.”

According to the SEC, umpires will be charged with making timely use of instant replay, trying to keep their reviews to two or three minutes.

For that reason, Mainieri said he doesn’t think instant replay will be a huge disruption to a game if needed.

“It’s going to be used on such a limited basis,” he said. “It’s not going to be like major league baseball when you can appeal.

“I don’t really see it having a major effect.”

If Thompson has his way, instant replay won’t be needed at all between Tuesday’s start of the tournament — Vanderbilt and Tennessee open play at 9:30 a.m. for the right to play LSU at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday — and Sunday afternoon’s championship final.

“We go though a trial run 15 minutes before each game, and that’s just fine with us,” Thompson said.

SEC spokesman Herb Vincent, a former assistant athletic director at LSU, said conference officials have had no discussions about whether to use instant replay during the regular season in 2015.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter at @RabalaisAdv.