Oklahoma's Patty Gasso: Softball's New Replay Rules 'Taking Away From the Excitement of the Game'

Games across the country have been slowed down by an offseason rule change allowing coaches to challenge if players left base before the ball leaves a pitcher's hand.
SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

AUSTIN, TX — This past weekend’s top five matchup between Oklahoma and Texas had a little bit of everything. 

Great pitching, excellent defensive plays in the field, timely home runs, dramatic seventh innings and intrigue that captured the attention of the softball world. 

But it also featured another constant fixture in 2024 — lengthy replay reviews. 

In both Friday and Saturday’s contests, runs were wiped off the board after a challenge from each side deemed a runner left base early, and then Saturday’s final out of the plate delayed the finality of the play after the umpires took another look at Reese Atwood’s tag on Maya Bland

This past offseason, runners leaving base early became a play that can be challenged, a decision that feels as if it’s slowed down every series across the country. 

“It’s like having another umpire with the reviews,” OU coach Patty Gasso said after Saturday’s defeat to Texas. “Umpires can’t watch everything, and when you’re usually at second, you’re feeling, ‘Oh no one’s looking. No one’s paying attention.’ 

“Now you have every single person on your bench watching something. Everyone’s got eyes on something for a reason, and it can win you a game.”

Texas coach Mike White, who actually served on softball’s rules committee, said the ability to challenge such plays is being used in a manner that was never intended. 

“I guess I can blame myself,” White said with a smile on Saturday. “But the purpose of the rule was to stop people leaving early on steals and now it’s become like more intertwined with base hits, home runs, doubles. And it’s very close because from what I understand it’s so close, like millimeters or centimeters within leaving or not, so close you can’t see it by eye. That’s why it’s not being called by the umpires. 

“So when you have these TV cameras they can slow it right down. So it’s very, very hard and it’s really something we should probably look at (changing) for sure.”

Friday, the Sooners might have opened up an even bigger lead than the two-run advantage gained in the third inning. 

Rylie Boone appeared to have moved Kinzie Hansen from first base to third with a no-out single in the top of the third inning, and Oklahoma looked as if it could open the floodgates by building on its 1-0 advantage. 

Instead, Hansen was ruled to have left first base early after a replay review. 

OU still added another run in the inning, but the Sooners had to wait until Jayda Coleman’s three-run blast in the fifth inning to really feel comfortable. 

The shoe was then on the other foot on Saturday. 

Oklahoma reliever Karlie Keeney was staring down disaster in the bottom of the sixth inning after inheriting a bases loaded, no-out jam. 

Texas looked to effectively end the game with a pair of insurance runs, but it was Gasso who one a challenge on a runner leaving early to record the first out of the inning. 

Keeney then battled back to keep the OU deficit at 2-1 heading into the seventh inning — a lead that the Sooners almost erased with Boone’s double that Gasso sent Bland home on. 

The rules surrounding any replays obviously won’t change during the season, so it’s up to the players to adjust to the reality that every moment on-base can be reviewed, just at pitchers had to adjust to the pitch clock. 

“This game is all about adjustments,” Hansen said on Saturday. “… We’ve trained our whole lives (to) kind of leave when the pitcher is at 12 o’clock (in the pitching motion)… So it’s an adjustment. It’s the game. That’s what happens. 

“… It’s definitely something crucial that needs to be worked on. I’m interested to see how that rule plays out moving forward.”

Gasso, much like every coaching staff, is just working to best equip her team for all scenarios this year, even if she’d like to see the replay rules adjusted. 

“Do I love it? No because I do think it’s taking away from the excitement of the game,” she said. “But it is what it is. What I would like to see if you ask for a review and you get it overturned, you get that review back… We’ve been burned by it, we’ve been helped by it. 

“You know what’s happening now? No matter what. If it’s the winning run, someone’s gonna say do it just to check. What will it hurt? It’s kind of being taken advantage of now."

Oklahoma won’t be concerned by what gets replayed or not on Tuesday. 

The Sooners’ task will be to bounce back after dropping the program’s first Big 12 series since 2011. 

Before diving back into league play, OU first heads north to take on Wichita State in a contest that was rescheduled from March 26.

First pitch between the Sooners (35-3, 13-2 Big 12) and the Shockers (18-14, 9-6 AAC) is slated for 6 p.m. at Wilkins Stadium, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+. 


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Ryan Chapman

RYAN CHAPMAN

Ryan is deputy editor at AllSooners and covers a number of sports in and around Norman and Oklahoma City. Working both as a journalist and a sports talk radio host, Ryan has covered the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team, the Oklahoma City Energy and more. Since 2019, Ryan has simultaneously pursued a career as both a writer and a sports talk radio host, working for the Flagship for Oklahoma sports, 107.7 The Franchise, as well as AllSooners.com. Ryan serves as a contributor to The Franchise’s website, TheFranchiseOK.com, which was recognized as having the “Best Website” in 2022 by the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters. Ryan holds an associate’s degree in Journalism from Oklahoma City Community College in Oklahoma City, OK.