Obstruction – Warnings, Additional Awards and Ejection

The obstruction rule in college softball is more complicated than in any other code. Obstruction in all softball codes involve the effect/penalty of base awards for the obstructed runner and any other runners affected by the obstruction. When obstruction is committed in a college softball game, there is the possibility of additional effects involving warnings, additional one-base awards after a warning, and ejections.

In addition, for college softball:

o Some acts of obstruction require a warning
o Some acts of obstruction, including the “normal” fielder obstruction may result in a warning
o Some acts of obstruction may involve an ejection.

HERE IS A SUMMARY OF THE EFFECTS FOR OBSTRUCTION:
Obstruction not requiring warnings, additional one-base awards or ejections
  • Catcher obstruction

  • Fielder preventing the batter from having a reasonable opportunity to contact the pitch

  • Fielder obstruction during a rundown

  • Equipment obstruction

Obstruction which may result in a warning and one-base award for subsequent violations

o Fielder not in possession of the ball, not in the act of fielding a batted ball nor in the act of catching a thrown or pitched ball who impedes a runner.
o Fielder intentionally altering the course of a fair ball with the intent to cause the ball to go foul (for example, blowing on a rolling ball or digging in the dirt). **
o Fielder positioning herself in the base runner’s line of vision to obviously prohibit her from seeing the first touch of a fly ball. **
o A fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball or in the act of catching a thrown ball intentionally altering her motion to obstruct the batter-runner or base runner. **
o A fielder faking a tag (a tag without the ball) on a runner advancing or returning to a base. **
o Fielder obstructing a runner returning to or leading off a base and the fielder is making a play; may be given a warning. Example: The runner at first base leads off and is returning to the base. The first baseman, in an attempt to get her out, obstructs the runner coming into first base. The defensive player is charged with obstruction, the runner is safe at first, but the warning is not required. The umpire still has the authority to issue the warning if he/she feel it is appropriate.

** Examples of appropriate times to issue a warning although it is not required. It is highly recommended that the umpire give a warning on the first occurrence if there is any possibility of awarding a base on a subsequent violation.
Note: the one-base award is appropriate only if the subsequent violation is by the same individual.

Obstruction which requires a warning and one-base award for subsequent violations

o Fielder obstructing a runner rounding a base; always issue a warning for rounding, whether a play is being made on a runner or not.
o Fielder obstructing a runner returning to or leading off a base and the fielder is not making a play and is merely in a position that obstructs the runner
o Fielder using force to push a runner off the base she possesses to put her out.
o Fielder positioning herself in the base runner’s line of vision to obviously distract her or intentionally prohibit her from seeing the release of the pitch.
Note: the one-base award is appropriate only if the subsequent violation is for the same exact rule by the same individual.

The 9.5.3.8 rule in the 2020-2021 rule book has additional wording. The first sentence is the same as above. The new second sentence is: If a play is being made on the runner, the fielder may be charged with obstruction with no warning issued. The option for issuing a warning is only for 9.5.3.8 (returning/leading off). So, for returning or leading off, issue a warning if no play is being made on that runner. You have an option to issue a warning or not if a play is being made on the runner.

Obstruction which requires a warning and ejection for subsequent violations

o Fielder positioning herself in the batter’s line of vision or acting in a manner to distract the batter.

Obstruction which requires an ejection without a warning

o Fielder flagrantly (with excessive force) impeding the batter, batter-runner or base runner.
o Fielder attempting to put out a runner occupying a base by using excessive force to push her off the occupied base.

If either of these do not quite reach the criteria of excessive force but was still more than necessary:
• If just a little more force than a normal tag, give the fielder an informal warning – call time as soon as the play has ended, then “OK, I saw that. That was unnecessary.
• If more than a little force but not sufficient to require an ejection – call time immediately unless the play continues, then call time. Give a formal warning Perhaps…”That was completely unnecessary and must not happen again. Do you understand?” Do not leave the area and watch for any reaction by the runner. If none, then move toward the defensive team’s dugout and inform the head coach about the formal warning.

Here is another play which happened on the field and the SUP’s interpretation:
Play: Play at the plate as R3 is coming from third on a suicide squeeze. As the catcher reaches down for the ball, she realizes she cannot make the tag in time. She picks up the ball in her bare hand, then shoves the runner with her glove to prevent her from touching the plate. The resulting collision forces both the catcher and the runner to the ground. It is now a scramble to get back to the plate.
Ruling: The rule support for this situation is rule 9.5.3.9 Fielder Obstruction – even with the catcher having possession of the ball. Although the rule says, “push the runner off the base she possesses”, the spirit and intent of this rule would also apply in the situation described. This rule also refers to 9.5.5.2 if excessive force is used. Use the Effect listed for 9.5.3.7 to 9.5.3.10. If, in your judgment, you deem this contact to be flagrant, you would apply 9.5.5.