College Appeal Plays

An appeal play is a play or rule violation on which the umpire responsible for the play does not make a ruling until requested by a coach or player. Let’s get this notion out of the way now…despite how some coaches will ask for you to “appeal your call” to another umpire, that is not an appeal – it is a coach asking you to go for help on the call. See the article in the Game Management Corner/General/Umpire Duties Going for Help on a Judgment Call to better understand how to deal with this.

The first step to administering appeal plays is to understand the legitimate appeals which can be requested during a game; the five appealable plays for college softball are:
• Batter-runner attempting to advance to second base
• Runner missing a base
• Runner leaving a base early on caught fly ball
• Participation by an improper player (batting out of order is included here)
• Switching base runners on occupied bases

The next step is to ensure that the appeal is made in the appropriate timeframe; see each section below for this information. All of the appeal plays are listed in Rule 7, but there are no Effects listed in Rule 7. Each of the five appeals have another rule referenced. The details for the actions which cause the appeals, and their Effects are listed in these referenced rules. You must read the rules as well as the appeal rules to get the full understanding to administer these appeal plays properly.

There are two types of appeals – live ball and dead ball. The appeal must be specific as to base and runner. For a live-ball appeal, a fielder must touch the base or tag the runner, even if the runner has stopped on a different base. A dead-ball appeal can be verbal and made by a coach or any defensive player. If an umpire anticipates a possible appeal and the ball is already back to the pitcher, it is much easier to administer the appeal by calling for a suspension of play and telling the defense to make the verbal appeal.

BR attempting to advance to second base

Most coaches (and fans) do not know that this is an appeal play. The batter-runner, by rule, is allowed to overrun first base. However, if she makes any move toward second base after overrunning first base, she puts herself in jeopardy by being called out; this appeal must be made while the ball is still live. And before the BR returns to first base. Most of the time the intent of the fielder is all that is needed to qualify this as an appeal, i.e. the fielder tags the BR while the BR is off the base.

The only exception to this is when the BR is returning to 1b after overrunning it and the pitcher has possession of the ball in the circle. Now, her actions are governed by the look-back rule. Read that rule and the Locker Room article Batter-runner Regulations for the Look-back Rule for more detail. It involves a rule unique to college softball which has an “extended baseline” back to 1b.

Runner missing a base or leaving a base early on caught fly ball

The rules for these two appeals are the same. They can be live- or dead-ball appeals. For missing a base, the runner is assumed to have touched the base once she has passed it. When appealed the status of the runner is based on her status at the time she misses a base. If she was forced at that time, it is still considered a force play at the time of the appeal. This may result in nullifying runs which scored on the play (it is not a timing play). See the companion article – Appeals Plays Advanced Topics – for more details and examples.

Play: With runners on first base (R1) and third base (R3), the batter hits a ball that rolls to the fence. R3 scores, R1 misses 2b as she advances to 3b, and the BR misses 1b as she advances to 2b. The defense appeals the two missed bases. Does it matter which order they appeal in order to negate the run.
Ruling: It does not matter because both missed bases were force outs; the run does not score.

Play: same as above except R1 scores all the way from 1st base. In doing so, she touches 2b but misses 3b.
Ruling: R1 is not forced to run to 3b on the batter’s hit, so this is not an appeal at a forced base. This is a timing play so count R3’s score.

Play: runners on 1b and 3b with one out. On a base hit, R3 scores, R1 misses 2b and arrives at 3b safely. The BR is thrown out at 2b for the second out. The defense appeals the missed base.
Ruling: the run does not score since the third out is a force out (R1 at 2b).

For a caught fly ball, the runner may leave the base when the fly ball is first touched, not when the ball is eventually caught. An appeal for a missed base may be a force play and therefore nullify any runs (see the companion article, Appeal Plays – Advanced Topics for more details). An appeal on a caught fly ball or line drive can never be considered a force play as the BR has been called out and all forces are removed; runs may score on this appeal.

Note: we do not use the words …leaving a base when tagging up. The runner does not necessarily have to be in the act of tagging up for this appeal to be made. Case in point – it is an appeal play when a defensive player catches a line drive and doubles off a runner. This is not a force play – it is a live-ball appeal. The umpire will rule on this immediately because the actions of the defense have made it obvious that the defense is appealing the runner left the base before the fielder first touched the caught line drive which is treated the same as a fly ball.

These appeals must be made before the next pitch, legal or illegal. If the appeal is requested at the end of a half-inning, it must be made immediately after the third out and before all infielders have clearly vacated their normal fielding positions and have left fair territory, and the catcher leaves her position. At the end of the game it must be requested with the same stipulations as the previous sentence; AND it must be requested before the umpires have left the field of play. Note: the umpire crew shall give the teams reasonable time for a possible appeal play.

Participation by an improper player

Improper players include:
• Player batting out of order (in the Batting rule)
• Player inaccurately listed in the lineup
• Player unreported or misreported
• Illegal player

These can only be dead-ball appeals; they are more complicated and a thorough reading of these rules in the Rule Book is required (Rule 8 – Improper Player, Rule 11 – Batting Out of Order). The companion article to this one – Appeal Plays Advanced Topics – cover this in more detail. There is also an excellent summary of these rules in one of the Rules Book Appendices.

Switching base runners on occupied bases

There is a fifth appeal in NCAA – switching base runners on occupied bases after a suspension in play. In the past, the switching of bases was done a few times after an offensive conference; the team was probably doing this in an attempt to get the faster runner closer to scoring. Before rules were added to cover this appeal there was no penalty for trying this dishonest maneuver. If the defense or umpire noticed the transgression, the only effect was to tell the runners to get back to the proper bases. So, the rules committee added the two rules with a strict penalty for this unsporting behavior – both runners are declared out and ejected, and the head coach is ejected.

Administering this appeal
Some of the current wording for this rule may seem ambiguous – “After the ball has been put in play, it may be a dead-ball appeal.” The intent for that wording is to allow the offense to correct this mispositioning of runners if it is an honest mistake, but it must be corrected before the ball is put back into play. This results in a bit of a process to correctly administer this appeal. The companion article to this one – Appeal Plays Advanced Topics – cover this in more detail.

The umpires must wait for the defense to notice the switch and request the appeal. But the ball must be put back into play before the appeal can be honored.

When the plate umpire puts the ball back in play the defense could then throw the ball to each base and tag each runner occupying the base illegally. But that would probably add to the confusion. Umpires should be aware of the situation and do the following:
• An umpire puts the ball back into play, not acting on any comments from the defense to indicate there is a problem (“Coach, I hear you, but I cannot do anything until I put the ball in play, and then you can appeal this.”)
• If the defense is not saying anything, do nothing (remember, this is an appeal play).
• If the defense starts making an appeal, immediately call time-out and listen to the appeal.
• Administer the Effect -both runners are called out and ejected; eject the head coach

As you can see, sometimes appeal plays are not that appealing. See the companion article Appeal Plays – Advanced Topics.