A player is batting out of order when they fail to bat in proper sequence as listed on the official lineup card. To understand the Batting Out of Order rule it is important to know these terms:
• Proper batter is the player who should have batted.
• Improper batter is the player who batted out of order.
Batting out of order is an appeal play and may be made only by the defensive team. The umpire cannot act on this infraction until it is brought to his/her attention. The defense forfeits its right to appeal when
• A pitch (legal or illegal) has been made to the following batter, or
• At the end of an inning or the game, all infielders have clearly vacated their normal fielding positions and have left fair territory.
Ironically, the name of this rule leads to some confusion. Instead of calling it “Batting Out of Order” it would make more sense to call it “Proper Batter Fails to Bat.” The player who batted out of order (improper batter) is not the player who will be called out if appealed properly; the player who failed to bat (proper batter) is called out if appealed properly.
Effects for batting out of order
The effect for batting out of order varies depending upon when the infraction is reported to the plate umpire. Here are the different possibilities:
• Infraction is discovered before the improper batter has completed their turn at bat
• Infraction is discovered after the improper batter has completed their turn at bat and before the items mentioned above regarding forfeiting the appeal.
• Infraction is discovered after the items mentioned above regarding forfeiting the appeal.
• Players who have not batted and who have not been called out have lost their turn at bat until reached again in the regular order.
• No base runner shall be removed from the base they are occupying to bat in their proper place (except the batter who has been taken off the base by the plate umpire as part of the effect invoked). They merely miss their turn at bat with no effect; the batter following them in the batting order becomes the legal batter.
Although batting out of order is a rare infraction at most levels, it may happen and umpires must be prepared to correctly administer it. Most of the time it can be ruled on quickly. Here are some examples:
Improper batter has not completed her turn at bat
The proper batter will take her place and assume the current ball-strike count. Any runs scored or bases advanced while the improper batter was at bat shall be legal.
Improper batter completes turn at bat, gets on base, appealed before next pitch
• The proper batter will be called out for failure to bat and all results because of a ball batted by the improper batter or because of the improper batter’s advance to first base as a result of obstruction, an error, a hit batter, walk, dropped third strike or a base hit shall be nullified.
• The next batter is the player whose name follows that of the player called out for failure to bat. If the batter declared out under these circumstances is the third out, the first batter in the next inning shall be the player whose name follows that of the player called out for failure to bat
Improper batter completes turn at bat, gets on base, appealed after a pitch
• The turn at bat of the improper batter is legal
• All runs scored and bases run are legal
• The next batter is the player whose name follows that of the player who batted out of order.
Plays with a little more complexity
Play 1: Improper batter completes turn at bat, makes the only out on the play, appealed before next pitch. Ruling: The proper batter will be called out for failure to bat and all results because of a ball batted by the improper batter or because of the improper batter’s advance to first base as a result of obstruction, an error, a hit batter, walk, dropped third strike or a base hit shall be nullified. This includes nullifying the out on the improper batter. (The improper batter will become the next batter if they immediately follow the batter that failed to bat in order.)
Play 2: Improper batter completes turn at bat, is called out and another runner is also called out on the play.
Ruling: Some coaches will think it is best to appeal this play before the next pitch. NCAA does not allow the defense to keep all outs on the play; so, if appealed the entire play is negated and the defense does not keep the outs on any base runners.
Play 3. Improper batter completes turn at bat, is not called out on the play but two other runners are called out on the play.
Ruling: This may not happen often, and many coaches may decide to appeal. A coach who knows the rules could decide to ignore the infraction and keep the two outs on the runners.
Play 4: This play is infrequent and will cause a discussion, as it involves players completely losing their rightful turn at-bat. G bats instead of B. G hits a double and a pitch is thrown to C, who thinks she is the next batter. Now the defense appeals but the plate umpire tells the coach it is too late. The plate umpire, after checking the lineup card, declares correctly that the current batter should be H, as G’s at-bat is legal. H must replace C in the batter’s box; B, C, D, and E will be passed over and not get an at-bat until their next rotation in the batting order.
Batting order and a fourth out appeal
This is another unusual play but has happened and resulted in a Case Book play. It does not involve batting out of order but does involve the batting order when a fourth out is made on an appeal which results in a necessity to re-establish the correct batting order.
Play 5: Base runners on second and third bases with two outs. The batter swings and misses strike three but the catcher misses the pitch, allowing the runner from third base to score. The catcher eventually recovers the ball and throws to the pitcher covering home plate who tags out the trailing runner also
attempting to score (third out). The batter-runner, thinking the inning was over, advanced toward, BUT did not touch, first base before the pitcher realizes they have a play and throws to first base.
Ruling: The play at the plate is the apparent third out. However, the defense may appeal after a third out for an infraction by a base runner who apparently scored, to re-establish the correct batting order and to obtain an inning ending force out to nullify an apparent run. Any dropped third strike results in a potential force out at first base; When properly appealed, the apparent run does not count and the first batter in the next inning will be the player who follows the batter-runner who was called out on the dropped third strike.
(Case Book 6.2, rules 22.214.171.124 and 7.1.3)
Batting Out of Order – What is the Count
Strange things have happened during softball games, and the Play below actually happened during a game in 2022. It created an intense discussion and the consensus was:
• The majority for the correct ruling is included in the Play below.
• The minority insisted that umpires should not get involved with batting out of order; it must be appealed by the defense. Therefore, the PU should do nothing at the time he/she knows it is an improper batter except to be aware that if/when it is appealed PU should be ready to give the correct ruling.
We are still awaiting a reply from the NCAA Rules Editor for the correct interpretation. Here is the play and some thoughts about the possible correct ruling:
Play: Batter A leads off the inning by hitting a grounder on the third-base line which F5 fields and throws to 1b for the force out on A. Plate umpire points fair when F5 touches the batted ball and U1 makes the out call on Batter A. There is no indication of a foul ball by any umpire.
• Thinking she hit a foul ball, batter A returns to the plate, grabs her bat and gets back into the batter’s box.
• None of the umpires realize that the retired batter is back in the batter’s box. (Yes, it happened, as mentioned above)
• Batter A (now an improper batter) receives two more pitches before PU realizes that this is the same batter who grounded out.
• Batter A completes her at-bat by striking out (for second out in the inning).
• Batter B comes up and proceeds to strike out for the third out and ends the inning.
Rulings (majority vote): a) If an umpire immediately notices that the retired batter is back in the batter’s box as an improper batter, He/she should call time-out, discuss the situation with the crew, and resolve this using preventive umpiring. PU should tell A to remove herself from the batter’s box and explain to both head coaches that the ball was ruled a fair ball and Batter A was declared out at 1b. Rules 7.3.5 support this decision – nobody seemed to see the umpires’ signals of fair ball and out at 1b. It becomes equivalent to a delayed call and should be corrected with preventive umpiring so that further confusion is avoided. See the Complications section below for the further issues which could evolve if this is not done.
b) No umpires immediately notice that the retired batter reenters the batter’s box and pitches are thrown. During her now improper at-bat, either the offense or defense brings it to PU’s attention (e.g., my scorekeeper told me the first batter was called out at 1b). PU should confirm that the wrong batter is up and invoke rule 11.9.3. The PU should have the correct count which the proper batter now assumes, as indicators should have been reset by all umpires after the out on A at 1b. See the Complications section below for reasons why this situation may be brought to the attention of the umpires during the second at-bat by batter A.
Alternate ruling (minority vote): If umpires notice that the retired batter continues to take her place in the batter’s box, the PU should do nothing except to be aware that if/when it is appealed PU should be ready to give the correct ruling. Now it gets a bit more complicated.
Scenario 1: if the offense discovers the mistake before A completes her second at-bat. It can now be corrected by replacing the improper batter A with the proper batter B and assume the count, which started over when A is at-bat for her second time.
Scenario 2: if the defense discovers the mistake before A completes her second at-bat, the PU should accept this as an appeal play. A coach or team does not have to use the word “appeal” to make an appeal if the intent is clear to the umpire. Now the plate umpire can tell the offense to put the correct batter in the batter’s box. PU will probably also have to explain to the defense coach that, by rule, the effect for the appeal while the improper batter is still at bat is to replace her with the proper batter (11.9.3 in the 2022-2023 rule book).
Scenario 3: if neither side realizes the mistake until the end of the inning (all umpires now have 3 outs on their indicators), we must assume that the offense will argue that there are only 2 outs. The best way to resolve this is for the PU to check with the scorekeeper to get the facts and then explain to the coach:
• Batter A was the first out on the fair ball
• With no appeals, batter A’s second at-bat becomes a legal at-bat when the next pitch was thrown
• After A’s second at-bat, the lineup continued with the next proper batter being batter B
• Any outs made by batter A’s improper second at-bat, and/or all outs made by following batters count as outs.
• The half-inning is over and the lineup for the next inning should be the batter after the last legal at-bat.
However, an important item missing in in this discussion up to this point – what is the count on A when she hit the ball which she presumably thought was called a foul ball. If neither team realizes the mistake but the PU does, the PU knows it is a new count on A when she now comes back to bat for the second time.
The pitch on the supposed foul ball, which is actually the first out of the half-inning and not a foul ball, is not germane as it is just a fair ball resulting in an out. This has no effect on the proper count for next batter who should now be batting.
A good preventive umpiring technique for the PU after realizing this situation would be to give the count loudly, distinctly, and emphatically after every pitch to this improper batter. This may get the coaches’ attention to resolve this situation quickly.
• If A had a count (before the pitch resulting in the out) of either 0-0 or 1-0, neither of the first two pitches during A’s second at-bat would have resulted in A getting a ball 4 or strike 3. She would probably continue the at-bat with nothing said until a pitch would have been strike 3 or ball 4 on A’s initial at-bat (see next bullets). If anybody does say something, PU is allowed to explain what happened without giving any rulings – PU should say that A was ruled out on the play at first base which A thought was a foul ball. That is all that should be said. If anybody asks who the current batter should be, PU should say that it is the next official at-bat after A. That is just citing the rule, not giving any coaching advice.
• If A eventually receives a pitch that would have been ball 4 for A’s first at-bat, and PU does not allow her to advance to 1b, the offense be sure to say something. PU should explain the situation as in the first bullet and follow the same protocol…do not tell the coach that B is the proper batter. Hopefully, the offense coach will agree to remove A from first base and send B up with the current count. If the coach does not agree, the umpires must step in and take control of the situation – PU states: “batter A is out from her first at-bat and must be removed from first base; the correct batter has a count of (give the correct count). Play ball.”
• If A eventually receives a pitch that would have been strike 3 for A’s first at-bat, the defense will probably say something. PU should explain the situation as in the first bullet and follow the same protocol…do not say anything about an appeal but allow the coach time to consider the his/her options, for example, 1) Either the defense coach knows the rule, realizes it is actually a strike on the improper batter, and does not appeal an improper batter; instead, he/she waits to see if improper batter A gets on base. The defense can then appeal and get an out on B for failure to bat. C will be the next batter with two outs. Or 2) the defense coach appeals the improper batter and B is placed in the batter’s box with the correct ball/strike count. If the offense coach gets suspicious at this time and realizes the mistake, the offense coach can replace A with B without penalty if the defense does not appeal properly.
• If A completes her second at-bat before she receives what would have been a ball 4 or strike 3, then PU waits for an appeal by the defense. If there is an appeal, rule on it.
Note: After batter A makes the 2nd out in the inning, if Batter B hits a home run during her at-bat, that home run would count since the next pitch would legalize batter A’s turn at bat and now make batter B as the proper batter. (This answers a question received when this situation was presented to the CCSUA training staff, as some umpires questioned the veracity of allowing the home run.)