The object of each college softball team is to score more runs than its opponent. The “definition” in the rule book for how a run scores is – each time a runner legally touches first, second, and third bases and home plate before the third out of an inning. There are two exceptions. Can you name them? (Hint; read the rule on scoring runs.)
Less than two outs
Most of the runs scored in a typical game are accomplished through straight-forward plays -an offensive player legally advances to and touches home plate before the third out of an inning. These include home runs, base hits with runners in scoring position, bases-loaded walks, sacrifice fly balls, etc. However, there are some anomalies which result in a team scoring runs…keep reading and study the Plays in this article.
When 3rd out is made on the play
There are a number of situations for which a run may not be scored when the 3rd out is made during the play:
• The batter-runner being called out at first base, or any other runner is out on a force play.
• Runner is tagged out before the lead runner touches home plate (see an exception in one of the Plays in this article)
• Live-ball appeal is made before the lead runner touches home plate.
• Preceding runner is declared out during a play or as a result of a successful appeal.
• The scoring runner is ruled out for the fourth out as a result of an appeal of a missed base of a base left too soon on a touched fly ball out.
A few of the situations listed above for a run not counting are known as timing plays. A timing play is an important part of the game and one for which umpires must be aware when it is a possibility; we even have a specific umpire-to-umpire signal to alert our partners of this situation. Every college umpire must know what a timing play is but let us give you the exact definition – a defensive play in which the results are based on the time of the action. A clarification beyond this definition may be helpful – it is any non-force play that occurs and the status of a scored run is in question due to when it scores in relation to the out recorded.
Tag plays and appeals are the most common types of timing plays; force plays cannot be timing plays.
College softball rules are consistent with most other codes with regard to the status of a runner and whether an appeal play is a force play or not. It is based on the runner’s status at the time she missed the base. If she was forced at that time, it is still considered a force play at the time of the appeal.
Bases loaded, two outs, batter takes ball four. R3 walks slowly to the plate as R2 aggressively advances to 3b, rounds the base and is tagged out. The out on R2 happens before R3 touches the plate. Ruling: Score the run on the live-ball award
With two outs and base runners on second and third bases, the batter singles to right field. The lead runner misses home plate but the trailing runner (who started on second base) is thrown out at the plate for the third out. Immediately after the play, the defense appeals the lead runner missing home plate. Ruling: The defense is granted an advantageous fourth out which supersedes the tag at the plate and negates the apparent run.
R3 scores on a dropped third strike and the batter-runner does not run toward 1b. R3 is safe at the plate after which the BR starts running to 1b but is thrown out for the 3rd out. Ruling: no run scores.
R2 is on 2b and R3 on 3b with one out. B4 hits a fly ball which is caught; both runners legally tag up to advance. R3 knows she will score but slows down as she looks back at the play at 3b on R2. R2 is tagged out for the third out before R3 scores. Ruling: no run scores on this timing play.
R2 is on 2b and R3 on 3b with one out. B4 hits a fly ball which is caught. R3 legally tags up but R2 thinks the ball might not be caught so advances toward 3b. R2 sees the catch so stops and runs back toward 2b but is thrown out on a live-ball appeal before R3 touches the plate. Ruling: no run scores on this timing play.
Fourth out appeals
The third out does not always result in the end of a half-inning. Umpires may accept a request for a “fourth out” even though a third out has already been made on the just completed play. This typically is caused by a rule violation. Verbatim from the college rule book – “An appeal can be made after the third out.” See the article Appeal Plays Advanced Topics in the section Rules Corner/Defense/Appeals
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 she has 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. When properly appealed, a dropped third strike is a force out, therefore, 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 out on the dropped third strike.
With one out and base runners on first and third bases, the batter hits a fly ball that is caught. Each base runner leaves her base before the caught ball is touched. R3 scores and R1 is now at 2b. An appeal is made at first base for the third out. The defensive team then makes an appeal at third base before the infielders leave the infield. Ruling: The base runner on third base will then be declared out also, and the run will not count.
Bottom of the 7th inning, tie game. With one out and bases loaded, the batter hits a fly ball that is caught. R3 leaves 3B on the first touch of the catch, R2 stays in contact with 2B, R1 leaves her base before the caught ball is touched. R3 scores easily ahead of the throw to the plate. F2 immediately throws to F3 appealing that R1 left her base before the caught ball was touched. Ruling: R3 scores the game winning run as the appeal on R1 for the third out is a timing play.
This actually happened in an MLB game in 1989, Yankees vs Milwaukee. Runners are on first and third with one out. The runners were off on a squeeze play as the batter popped up a bunt. The pitcher caught it for the second out and threw to first base to double-up R1 for the third out. R3, who did not tag up crossed the plate before the third out, which was a time play not a force play. The plate umpire made no signal and that the run counted. The defense failed to appeal that R3 left before the catch, which would have negated the run. Everyone thought the score was 4-1 when it was actually 5-1.