Abandonment – leave or forsake completely; to give up possession, withdraw from. Abandoning a base is the simple act of leaving a base without cause. This can happen for many reasons; the most common reasons – the runner assumes she has been called out or thinking that another runner has been called out for the third out of an inning.
The rule for a batter-runner or runner abandoning a base is slightly different than other codes. From the NCAA Softball Rules Book (once the batter becomes the batter-runner she remains the BR until she is put out or all action stops):
- Batter-runner: considered to have abandoned a base or effort to run the bases by not proceeding to first base after a fair batted ball, a base on balls, a dropped third strike, after being hit by a pitch (exception if BR is injured), or after catcher obstruction.
- If the batter becoming a BR is dependent upon a decision by the plate umpire, the batter should be allowed a reasonable amount of time to see/hear and process the relevant decision verbalized/signaled by the umpire before being judged as abandoning.
- Batter-runner and runners are considered to have abandoned a base or effort to run the bases when, after reaching a base safely, she abandons her base (for example, obviously heads toward her position or the dugout believing she as put out, the batted ball was foul, etc.) or leaves the field of play for any reason.
- With relationship to the scoring of runs, she does not proceed to a base to which she is forced to advance.
- The NCAA rule does not specify a minimum distance a runner must go to, nor a point of no return to be reached, before a runner is judged to have abandoned her base or baserunning responsibilities.
Effect and Preventive umpiring
The ball remains live when a runner is called out for abandoning a base. Read the Effects for these abandonment plays as they can have an influence on whether runs score or do not score. It can be either a timing play or not, depending on the defensive team’s action. Umpires can be proactive for this situation and possibly prevent any misunderstanding or confusion. This play requires umpires to be loud and clear with their signals and vocals.
Play: The batter hits a fly ball to F8 that seems like it should be easily caught. Instead, the fly ball drops in front of F8. The BR touches 1b, but then runs back toward the plate (her team is in 3rd base dugout). The base umpire judges that the BR believed the fly ball was caught and was returning to her dugout. Her coach yells at the BR to run back to 1b, so she does as the defense throws the ball to 1b. On a close play F3 takes the throw with her foot on the base.
Ruling (and mechanics):
• The BR is out as soon as an umpire judges she abandoned her base; live ball.
• The calling umpire should point to the BR and loudly declare “the batter runner is out for abandoning her base” then signal the out;
• The call and signal should be repeated, if appropriate, so the defense does not make a play on her and confuse matters even more.
Play: With a runner on third base (R3) two outs and two strikes on the batter, the batter swings at a pitch that hits the dirt and then skips into the catcher’s glove. The catcher, thinking she has caught the ball, rolls the ball back to the pitcher’s circle. The batter, also thinking the ball is caught, walks back toward her dugout. R3, however, breaks for the plate and crosses home plate before the batter reaches her dugout.
Ruling: the run scores (per email from softball rules editor). This is a timing play for the following reasons:
• A.R. 12-28. Both the batter-runner and the base runner are considered runners for the purpose of understanding this play and the A.R. They are treated the same for a force out.
• Rule 12.11.5. If it is not a force play by either tagging the runner or the base, it’s a timing play.. if she’s declared out for abandonment then it’s a timing play. The runner scores before she reaches the dugout. She scored before this runner was declared out.
• Rule 188.8.131.52 references a forced base runner (batter runner called out before reaching first) or any runner being forced out by the batter becoming a runner. This situation does not apply here.
Additional comment: After the runner on third scores (which counts) and then the umpire calls the batter runner out for abandonment for the third out, the umpire should then allow the defense to appeal that the batter-runner did not touch first base to get the fourth out and prevent the run from scoring.
Do not hesitate to call this when you have determined that the offensive player, by her actions, has given up on her base running responsibility. The few times this has happened, as reported by umpires, the defensive coach sees this as well. On a few occasions the umpires did not make this call and an argument ensued. College players are expected to know what is transpiring on the field and they have base coaches to assist them. You have a partner or partners on the field, and the crew is expected to make a decision.