NCAA Softball Rule Interpretations for 2024 #1

Posted 1/30/2024

Rule – defensive player on a force out to avoid obstruction

(November 17, 2023)
With a base runner on first base, the batter hits a ground ball to the second base player who fields it and throws the ball to second base to attempt a force out. The shortstop covering second base has a foot touching the leading edge of the base and is waiting to receive the throw. The play is close and there is no contact between the base runner and the fielder. Is this obstruction for blocking the leading edge of second base?

RULING: No. While prohibits a fielder from setting up in a position that blocks any portion of the leading edge of a base without possession of the ball, the intent of the rule is to limit collisions and ensure that a runner always has a clear path to the base. Although obstruction can occur on force or tag plays, a force play (or live ball appeal for leaving a base before a caught fly ball is touched) where the throw is coming from the same relative direction as the runner will almost always require the fielder to be in contact with the leading edge of a base. Not allowing this traditional positioning would create an unfair competitive disadvantage for the defense and is not in spirit with the rule.

In plays such as those described above, umpires should ignore obstruction for blocking the leading edge of a base when they judge that the runner would have clearly been put out and the apparent obstructing position of the fielder had no bearing on the play. (, 9.5.2 Note 4)

11.12.1 Effect, second paragraph.

Intended change but not included in the 2024-2025 Rule Book:
The previous rule had the word “unintentional” in the second paragraph of the Effect. The word “intentional” should have replaced the word “unintentional” Unintentional should be intentional. In the 2024 & 2025 book that change did not get made and there will be a post to correct this.

Appendix J Pitch/Between Innings Clock Protocol

Timing Devices

Consistent enforcement of the time limit between pitches and between innings is important to a game’s
pace of play. The use of a visible action clock(s) is recommended, but not required. Umpires may choose
to use an on-field timing device specifically designed to administer these time limits. In any case, the
time limits must be administered consistently at all levels of NCAA play.

20-Second Action Clock Limit

1. A pitcher shall be allowed twenty (20) seconds to begin the activity to deliver each pitch. The pitcher does not necessarily have to release the ball within 20 seconds; however, the pitcher must begin the pitch by a clear separation of her hands regardless of the style of the pitching motion.

2. For the first pitch of each half-inning, following an umpire’s call of “time”, or if the ball becomes dead (for example, after a foul ball or a pick-off that goes out of play), the timer shall stop, reset, and start again when the plate umpire signals “play” by using the point /beckon after the pitcher (in possession of the ball) and all offensive and defensive players are in a softball ready position.

3. For the first pitch of any subsequent at-bat, the timer shall start when the plate umpire signals play” by using the point/beckon after the pitcher (in possession of the ball) and all offensive and defensive players are in a softball ready position.

4. After each pitch during an at-bat (following the first pitch) in which the ball remains alive and in play and the batter remains at bat, the timer shall start when the pitcher receives possession of the ball in the general area of the pitcher’s circle.

5. The timer shall stop, and the umpire return the ball to “play” under the following circumstances:
a. The plate umpire appeals to a base umpire on a check swing attempt.
b. The catcher makes a pickoff attempt (throw) to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd base.
c. The catcher makes a throw at a runner who is attempting to steal a base.

6. When a pitcher steps off the pitcher’s plate, the time limit (or clock) does not stop unless the umpire grants the pitcher “time” for a legitimate reason.

7. When a batter steps out of the batter’s box, the time limit (or clock) does not stop unless the umpire grants the batter “time” for a legitimate reason.

8. If a visible clock is being used and the operator does not start the timer at the appropriate time, the umpire shall call “time” and signal to the operator to reset the timer and start again immediately.

9. Batters are expected to enter the batter’s box promptly prior to the first pitch of an at-bat. Batters should not delay entry to gain an undue advantage. If the batter does not enter the box and becomes alert to the pitcher with 10 or more seconds remaining, the batter will be adjudged to have violated the rule and the umpire shall award a strike. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance.

10. If the pitcher does not begin the motion to deliver the pitch prior to the timer reaching “0”, the pitcher will be adjudged to have violated the rule.

11. If the pitcher violates the rule, the umpire shall award a ball to the batter. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance unless the ball awarded by the umpire is ball four on the batter. All other runners would only advance if forced.

12. If the catcher or another defensive player intentionally delays getting the ball to the pitcher on the mound so that the time limit doesn’t start, or if the pitcher delays taking their position on the mound, the plate umpire may point to have the 20-second time limit started.

90-Second Time Limit (or Clock) Between Innings

1. Between innings, teams have 90 seconds to be ready for the first pitch. The 90-second clock shall start when the last defensive player has crossed the foul line. If there are unusual circumstances that prevent either team from getting on or off the field, the time clock is delayed until players have had an opportunity to begin to move to their positions. If the offensive team is not ready within the 90- second time limit, the umpire shall a assess strike. If the defense is not ready, a ball shall be awarded to the batter.

2. The 90-second clock may be shortened by mutual agreement by the two teams, conference policy, or tournament policy.

3. For all games, the maximum time limit shall be 90 seconds between each half-inning unless specified by a television provisions. The home institution will notify the visiting team and umpires if there will be an extension of the 90-second rule.

4. With 30 seconds left, the 3rd base umpire will visually cue the plate umpire, players, and coaches by visually moving from their position behind 2nd base to their starting position on the line and verbally announcing “30 seconds left”.

5. Continuing pitchers shall have the 90-second time limit to complete as many warmup pitches as they would like within the time limit.

6. The 90-second pitch clock is enforced even if a coach or player continues to argue an inning-ending play and the clock expires.

Location of the Clock

Each conference will determine if a visible clock(s) will be used for all games or for conference games only and/or if the timer will be administered by the umpire crew on the field. If a visible clock(s) is used,
it shall ideally be located on the outfield scoreboard or atop the outfield fence in either left- or right-centerfield as well as behind home plate. The clock(s) should be readily visible to the pitcher, catcher, and home plate umpire. If only one visible clock is available, the priority should be for the clock to be
behind home plate.

Personnel to Operate the Clock

Each conference is responsible for developing guidelines for training qualified individuals to operate the
clock during games or have it managed by the umpires on the field.

No Visible Clock Available or Malfunction of the Clock

If no visible clock is available or if the time clock malfunctions, time will be controlled on the field by
the base umpire.