Pitch-Related Infractions by Catcher and Fielders

There is more to the Pitching rule in the NCAA Rule Book than the pitcher’s actions before the pitch and while throwing the pitch. These are all well covered in the first sections of this rule. Also included in this rule are the regulations to which the defense must adhere as part of this whole process. These regulations are covered in the later section of the pitching rule.

Catcher returning ball to the pitcher

The catcher must return a pitched ball directly to the pitcher after a foul tip and each pitch not contacted. There are exceptions to this rule:
• To play on a base runner.
• When the batter becomes a base runner.
• After a strikeout.
• After a putout or an attempted putout made by the catcher.
• When “no swing” is ruled and help is requested on a checked swing, which might be strike three.
• When the batter is not entitled to first base but runs anyway.
• An errant throw intended for the pitcher.

If any of these exceptions does not apply – the ball is dead; the batter has a ball added to the count; base runners may not advance. For the first offense, the offending player shall be warned
• On subsequent offenses, the offender shall be ejected from the game (behavioral ejection)
• Intentionally violating this rule in order to walk the batter without pitching shall not result in a ball being awarded to the batter

Case Plays

Play: Runners on second and third bases, no outs, tie ball game, bottom of the seventh inning. The defensive coach uses a conference. The first pitch to the next batter is called a ball, the catcher throws the ball directly to first base, instead of back to the pitcher. An additional ball is awarded to the batter for violating this rule and play is resumed with a 2-0 count. The batter receives two more balls and it is now apparent the intent was to walk the batter with as few pitches as possible. In hindsight, is there anything that should have been done differently?
Ruling: Even with the violation immediately following the defensive conference, it is not realistic to anticipate the catcher would make this throw in order to avoid having to throw one of the four legal pitches needed for the walk. But in addition to the ball on the batter, the catcher would be warned and should they do it again, they would be ejected so it likely would not happen more than once a game. If the
umpire has reason to believe the act was intentional in order to walk the batter, the ball need not be assessed, but the catcher would still be warned.

Play: With no runners on base, the batter nicks the pitch resulting in a foul ball. The catcher picks up the ball and throws it to the third baseman who is standing in the circle with the pitcher. Since the catcher did not return the ball directly to the pitcher, is a ball added to the count?
Ruling: There is no penalty for a catcher who does not return the ball directly to the pitcher if the ball was contacted by the batter.

Fielders Regulations for Pitching Rule

The catcher must be within the catcher’s box from the start of the pitch until the pitch is released. No part of the catcher’s feet may be outside the lines until the pitch is released. There are exceptions to this rule:
• When the umpire suspends play (no effect)
• When the batter is positioned in the front of the batter’s box, the catcher may move closer to the plate without effect. At all times, the catcher must avoid catcher’s obstruction as the batter legally has the right to the entire batter’s box.

All defensive players except the catcher must be in fair territory from the time the pitcher steps on the pitcher’s plate until the pitch is released. If a fielder’s feet are touching the line or are in fair territory, they are considered in the field of play. The effect for violating this rule – Illegal Pitch.

Case plays

Play: The defensive player at first base is hugging the foul line after two line drives by the batter which were barely foul balls. Her right foot is completely in fair territory; her left foot is mostly in foul territory but her right heel is touching the line.
Ruling: No infraction. If a fielder’s feet are touching the line or are in fair territory, they are considered in the field of play.

Play: After two wild pitches with a runner at third base, the defensive player at third base is playing up with one foot completely in foul territory. It is obvious that she is preparing for another wild pitch which might ricochet off the backstop. Since her position is intended as a defensive shift and reasonable to the plate umpire, no violation is enforced.
Ruling: Incorrect; this violation must be called