Opinion: Meteorologist’s take on severe weather in sports

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Opinion: Meteorologist’s take on severe weather in sports

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On Saturday, April 29, with a squall line to the west of St. Louis, a decision was made to play the second game of the SLU Softball series against George Mason. As any meteorology student can attest, this was a reckless and dangerous decision for multiple reasons.

Firstly, squall lines normally pack damaging wind gusts that often meet or exceed 58 mph, the benchmark for severe criteria in the U.S. In the case of Saturday, winds met this criteria, along with small hail and a weak tornado just 50 miles north of campus.

Second, the four and a half innings rule is silly for softball. According to the 2016-2017 NCAA Softball Rulebook, a rain-shortened game is official “[i]f the home team has scored more runs at the end of its fourth inning than the visiting team has scored in its five offensive half-innings.” If softball played nine innings, this rule would make sense, as half of the game would be played in such a scenario. However, NCAA softball only plays seven innings. This has the effect of forcing teams to play nearly two-thirds of a game, which can take up to 90 minutes. Saturday’s squall line was an hour from campus.

Third, there was uncertainty among spectators on who made the call to play, despite the situation. According to the NCAA Softball Rulebook, that decision fell to “the coaches of both teams and/or the on-site administrator.” According to this, SLU made the choice to play, despite the severe weather in the area.

No matter who made the call, there needs to be better decision support services (DSS) in the future, and there should be consideration given to changing the four-and-half innings rule.