Until the relatively recent introduction of the international tiebreaker rule to high school softball, games could continue, inning after inning, until it got dark, the umpires had to go home or the field was no longer available.
Guess what folks.
The international tiebreaker is not allowed in high school softball, at least not according to California Interscholastic Federation and Southern Section officials.
This is news to many Orange County coaches who have been using the international tiebreaker for years and who don't believe they have been breaking any rules.
The Southern Section will release its softball playoff brackets today and some of the schools will be paired based on records that reflect tiebreaker games.
Several schools have played tiebreaker games this season and their records could be changed. But it's doubtful that will happen. Changes would occur only in cases that come to the attention of the Southern Section, making for a haphazard system that might penalize some and not others.
"I think it would be very presumptuous for the CIF to come in now and try to invalidate tiebreakers," Canyon Coach Lance Eddy said.
"There are going to be tiebreakers all over the CIF that were played this year. I guarantee that there will be at least 10, and there is no way they want to open that can of worms."
Frank Wilhelm, softball rules interpreter for the CIF's state office, said, "The National Federation does not have an international tiebreaker rule."
The international tiebreaker is a National Collegiate Athletic Assn. modification of Amateur Softball Assn. rules, he said. Orange County high school sports are governed by the rules of the National Federation of State High School Athletic Assns.
The rule states that if a game is tied after nine innings, teams will start the 10th and subsequent innings with the last official batter on second base. Play continues until there is a winner.
Sunny Hills and La Habra are co-champions of the Freeway League with 8-2 records and Buena Park finished third at 6-4, but all the teams played tiebreakers.
If the records were changed to reflect those game as ties, Sunny Hills and La Habra still would share the title. Nevertheless, Sunny Hills Coach Sheri Lazzarini is bothered.
"We have had (the tiebreaker) for years," Lazzarini said. "I have been in this league myself coaching for four years. It has been something that we have always had in the league games so that the league games don't continue forever."
Karen Hellyer, the Southern Section's softball administrator, said the whole thing is an "honest mistake" by the coaches who placed the tiebreaker in their league constitutions.
"The organization of member schools has agreed to follow National Federation rules and the National Federation rules do not allow for tiebreakers," Hellyer said. "The league has gone against its own agreement as a member school and inadvertently, in some fashion, placed that into its constitution.
"We will notify everybody that there has been some misinformation, apparently, and leagues have put something into their constitutions that should not be there, and they will need to take care of the situation."
The Empire League uses the international tiebreaker, which is why Katella played a tiebreaker in a victory over Loara during first round of league play. The game came to Hellyer's attention and the victory was ruled a tie at the beginning of the second round.
Katella Coach Rhonda Weyer and others are upset because CIF umpires have allowed tiebreaker games to be played.
"The CIF official is the representative of Karen Hellyer on the field," Eddy said. "They are representative of the CIF office, and they run the game in lieu of Karen Hellyer being there. So I think Karen Hellyer is honor bound to accept what CIF officials allow to happen."
Responded Hellyer: "We will have to make very clear to the officials' association that (the tiebreaker) is not a procedure that is allowed to occur at this point and time until National Federation rules allow for that to occur."
Joan Hueter, Katella girls' athletic director, tried to dispute the ruling that took a victory away from the school's softball team, but said Hellyer told her that neither a league nor an umpire can make rules that supersede the CIF.
The federation rule book states that "a regulation game consists of seven innings unless extra innings are necessary because of a tie score." It goes on to define an extra inning as "one that attempts to break a tie score . . . "
Wilhelm said to his knowledge, there is no language specifically prohibiting the use of the tiebreaker but that doesn't make it legal.
"It doesn't say specifically that you can't use it, but it says that if a game is tied after seven innings and time allocates, you can continue playing until a winner is determined," Wilhelm said.