Using Rules To Gain A Competitive Edge
By: John Bennett - Longtime Umpire
Originally Published in Fastpitch Delivery; Provided by: NFCA
That rule was appeal plays, including batting out of order. There are other situations on the field for which a good understanding of the appropriate rule may give a team a competitive advantage.
Two runners are standing on the same base. Which do you tag?
This does not happen often, but when it does, confusion usually reigns. The Brooklyn Dodgers actually ended up with three runners on third base many years ago. So what is the proper order of applying tags to these runners standing on the same base?
A runner is entitled to a base until (1) she is forced to advance or (2) she legally touches the next base.
Example 1: Runners on second base (R2) and third base (R3) with one out. On a grounder to the shortstop, R3 starts to advance to the plate as R2, with her head down, races to third. R3 stops advancing and returns to third, where R2 is already standing.
A fielder near the base decides to tag both of them. Who is out? Since R3 was not forced to advance and has not touched the next base (home), R3 legally can claim third base. When R2 is tagged, she is out, even if she is standing on a base.
Example 2: Same play, but while R2 is being tagged out, R3 gets confused and steps off the base. The defense should tag her and get another out on the play.
Example 3: Runner on first base (R1) when the batter hits a ball that skips into the glove of the shortstop. R1 starts to advance to second base, but, thinking the ball has been caught before it touched the ground, she retreats to first, where the batter-runner (BR) is now standing.
Since R1 is forced to advance on the batted ball, which is not caught, the base belongs to the BR. When R1 is tagged the umpire calls her out, even if she seems to be safely standing on first base.
Example 4: Runners on first (R1) and second (R2) and the batter gets a base hit to right field. R1 continues to run, not realizing that R2 has stopped at third base. Since R2 is not forced to advance to the plate, tag R1 and she is out.
There have often been occasions where both runners standing on the base are confused and they both may step off the base. As you can see from the above examples, the defense should tag both runners on the base to ensure that one of them is out, and then tag any runner who steps off the base.
I have seen one defensive team continue to tag runners as they were standing on the base, then stepped off the base, then stepped back on the base. I was applauding them (but only in mind) as I called both runners out.
Advantage: Defense, keep tagging runners until the umpire calls time and sorts out the situation.
A timing play is a play on which the third out is made on a play which is not a force play. Any runner who has touched the plate before the third out is made will have their run count.
So watch carefully for the location of the runner advancing to the plate as the out is being made on another runner. The umpire should signal and verbally declare whether the run counts or not.
Example: With a runner at second base (R2), the batter gets a hit, but is thrown out at second as she tries to stretch the hit into a double. R2 is one step from touching the plate when the batter-runner is tagged out.
The competitive advantage: If you know the leading runner did not touch the plate before the other runner was tagged out for the third out, confirm with the plate umpire that the run does not count.
A pitched ball goes out of play
It is not often that a pitched ball is so erratic that it not only gets past the catcher, but it bounces or rolls so far that it goes into the dugout or other out-of-play area.
I saw this happen in a major league baseball game, and, because Mike Scioscia, the catcher for the Dodgers at the time, knew this rule, he prevented a runner from advancing two bases.
Here is why. When a pitched ball goes out of play, it is a one-base award. Any runner attempting to advance on a wild pitch can continue running while the ball is live.
But as soon as the ball goes out of play, the umpire calls an immediate dead ball and awards all base runners one base from the base occupied at the time of the pitch.
As Scioscia was chasing down the erratic pitch rolling toward the dugout, he glanced at the runner who started at first base and was stealing on the pitch.
Scioscia realized that if he fielded the ball before it rolled into the dugout the runner would easily reach third base. So he intentionally let the ball roll into the dugout.
The offensive coach insisted the runner should be allowed to stay at third base. The umpires were correct in putting the runner back to second base, as the rule for major league baseball is the same as the rule for all codes of softball: One base award on a non-contacted pitch which goes out of play.
Advantage: Explain this rule to your catcher so if this happens when your team is on defense, you may prevent a runner from advancing two bases.