The batter transitions from batter to BR when she no longer has either foot in the batter’s box after contacting a pitch (note: the batter is considered out of the batter’s box after hitting the ball when both feet are in contact with the ground and one is completely outside the box (A.R.11-22):
• After a legally batted fair ball that is not blocked.
• Because of a dropped third strike
• When a fair batted ball unavoidably strikes a base runner (not in contact with a base) or an umpire, including the attached equipment or clothing of either, after touching a fielder (including the pitcher).
• When a fair untouched batted ball unavoidably strikes a base runner (not in contact with a base) or an umpire, including the attached equipment or clothing of either, after passing a fielder (other than the pitcher), and no other fielder had a chance to make a play.
• When a base runner is unintentionally hit by a fair untouched batted ball while in contact with a base, and the closest defensive player is in front of that base.
• When a fair batted ball becomes lodged in a defensive player’s uniform or equipment.
Note: hitting a foul ball is not included in this listing. If the foul ball is not caught, she has not completed her turn at bat (unless it is a bunt attempt with two strikes). If a foul ball is caught, she has completed her turn at bat.
Batter-runner is out
There are many plays for which the batter-runner is in jeopardy of being called out. The rule book has a separate section which lists these (nine in the 2022-2023 rule book). Most of the plays are straight-forward, so let us concentrate on the few which are not so easy to recognize and not included in the interference rules later in this article.
• Intentionally dropped fair foul ball – very unusual but be ready to rule on this if it ever happens in your game. The NCAA is slightly different than other codes – the batted ball must be legally and actually caught and then deliberately dropped. Unlike the infield fly rule, this rule applies to line drives and bunts. One caveat – an infield fly supersedes an intentionally dropped ball.
• BR steps back toward home plate to avoid or delay a tag by a fielder. Again, the NCAA rule is different than other codes – other runners are returned to the last legally occupied base at the time of the pitch, whereas other codes use the last base legally touched at the time of the infraction.
• The immediate preceding runner (not yet out) intentionally interferes with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or throw a ball in an attempt to complete the play.
• BR runs base in reverse order, intentionally into the outfield between bases or unnecessarily into the outfield on a walk, dropped third strike, or any batted ball either to confuse the fielders or to make a travesty of the game.
A Case Book ruling clarifies this: the rules specifically prohibit stepping backward to avoid a tag. However, as long as the batter-runner does not move their feet backward nor run out of the baseline to avoid the tag, they can delay a tag by other means such as ducking.
Runner steps back – on this play the umpires must judge whether the left foot stepped back (violation) or sideways (no violation):
It is important to understand the difference between batter interference and batter-runner (BR) interference. You may also reference rule 11.12 and its table to better understand the rule for the batter-runner hitting the ball a second time. Although this rule is in the Batting rule, its Effect is the same for a BR when the batter transitions from batter to BR (see the rows which have “Out” and “In/out”.
Contacting ball/interfering with a fielder
As a BR, she may now be called for interference if she contacts a fair batted ball while outside the batter’s box with her bat or her body– either a ball in fair territory or intentionally with a foul ball. In addition, the BR commits interference when she:
• Throws the whole bat into fair territory and it interferes with the defensive player.
• Interferes with the catcher’s attempt to field a third strike (see the article Do You Protect the Batter or Catcher?)
• Impedes a fielder making a play on a batted ball, either fair or might become fair.
• Impedes a fielder’s attempt to throw or receive a thrown ball (see separate section for Runner’s Lane interference below)
Case Book Plays
Play 1: The BR unintentionally kicks the ball that has deflected off the catcher who attempted to field a dropped third strike.
Ruling: Live ball, no interference.
Play 2: The BR bumps into F3 who is attempting to field a dribbler in fair territory. The BR has both feet in the runner’s lane but her left elbow hits F3 as she fields the ball, causing F3 to not make the play.
Ruling: Dead ball and interference is called for impeding a fielder attempting to field a batted ball.
Play 3: The slapper hits a high bouncer near the plate area and contacts the batted ball before any fielder has a chance to field it. At the time of BR/ball contact, the BR had one foot on the ground completely outside the batter’s box and the other foot in the air.
Ruling: This is interference; the BR is no longer a batter as she has no part of either foot in the batter’s box.
Play 4: Same as Play 3 but this time she has one foot on the ground inside the box and the other foot on the ground outside the box.
Ruling: Same as Play 3. The BR is out; she is no longer a batter as she has one foot on the ground completely outside the box. See A.R.11-22.
Runner’s lane interference
The BR may also be called out for violating the runner’s lane rule. Running-lane interference violations tend to cause controversy when it is called, thus the bolded words below for the key words to this rule. It is not automatically interference if the batter-runner interferes with the throw to first base, unless by so doing she hinders with the fielder receiving the throw or her action is to intentionally be hit by the throw. The throw must be on-line and the fielder at first base must have a reasonable chance to field the throw. A wild throw to first base, regardless of where the batter-runner is running, will not be interference.
The key to this rule is that the BR must interfere with the fielder taking the throw at first base – no throw, no interference. The throw does not have to contact the BR; it is interference if her location interferes with the fielder positioned at first base from receiving a thrown ball. It is not interference if the calling umpire judges it was just a bad throw by the defender.
Before the last step to first base
The runner’s lane starts at 30′ from home plate, so the rule gives the BR the opportunity to get into the runner’s lane at a reasonable distance after hitting the ball. Yet, few BRs know this or just do not adhere to it. Until the BR gets past the beginning of the lane, she cannot be called out for runner’s lane interference; however, she can be called out for interfering with a fielder attempting to make a play on the batted ball or intentionally letting the throw hit her.
Once the BR is 30′ from home plate the lane interference rule is in effect. Now, her feet become a major factor for determining interference. If the BR has either foot completely outside the lane and on the ground when hit by the throw – she is out whether a thrown ball hits the part of her body which is in fair territory or in the lane (remember, she may leave the lane on her last stride in order to touch first base). If neither foot is completely outside the lane and on the ground when hit by the throw – she is not out.
The purpose and intent of the runner’s lane rule is to give the BR a “safe” place to run to first base, and not be in jeopardy, when the fielder throwing the ball is behind her. Without this rule we could have fielders intentionally throwing at BRs.
The last step to first base
Another consideration for an umpire on this play is the fact that first base is in fair territory. We will protect a BR, and not call interference, if the BR had been running in the lane the entire time and is hit with the throw on her last step toward first base (she must do this as the base is in fair territory). This is clearly stated in the NCAA rule book. The BR is not protected on the last step to first base if the BR has been running outside the lane the entire time.
Case Book Plays
Play 4: A slap bunt is fielded by the catcher in front of home plate. F2 is ready to throw, but seeng the BR in her way with one or both feet out of the runner’s lane, she hesitates, eventually throwing the ball to first base but the throw arrives late.
Ruling: the BR has not interfered if a fielder does not throw or hesitates before throwing.
Play 5: Same as Play 4, but the throw hits the BR two strides before the base.
Ruling: Runner’s lane interference; dead ball and all runners return to base occupied at the time of the pitch.
Play 6: The catcher fields a bunt and throws the ball to first base. The BR has been running in the runner’s lane and the throw hits the BR on her last stride before the base.
Ruling: The rule allows the BR to leave the lane on her last stride in order to touch 1b. Live ball; no interference
Play 7: The catcher fields a bunt and throws the ball to first base. The BR has been running outside the runner’s lane and the throw hits the BR on her last stride before the base.
Ruling: Since the BR has not been running in the runner’s lane, this is interference. She cannot be considered to be leaving the lane if she was not in the lane.