Softball Base Running Rules Clarifications

Every year, questions arise around the rules of base running as it pertains to the pitcher having the ball in the pitcher's circle. Many urban myths have been passed on over the years which get repeated on the field between managers and umpires in training which confuses the issue more. This article covers the rule, how District 9 (D9) trains umpires on the rule, and then provides several scenario examples.

The Rule

From the Little League Softball 2018 Rulebook (pg. 99, Section 7.00, The Runner) as it pertains to AAA and Coast Divisions:

Rule 7.08 (a) (5) (b) Minor League/Tee Ball: the runner fails to keep in contact with the base which that runner is entitled until the ball has been batted or reaches the batter.

Note 1: If the ball slips from the pitcher's hand before, during, or up to the delivery of the pitch, the ball will remain in play and the runner(s) may advance at their own risk [see 8.07(a) Dropped Ball]. When a runner is off a base after a pitch or as a result of a batter completing a turn at bat, and while the pitcher has the ball within the eight (8) foot radius circle, the runner must immediately attempt to advance to the next base or return to the base the runner is entitled.

Note 2: If the pitcher has possession of the ball within the pitcher's circle, and is not making a play (a fake throw is considered a play), runners not in contact with their bases must immediately attempt to advance or return to base.

Penalty: The ball is dead. "No Pitch" is declared and the runner is out. Eight (8) foot radius circle must be properly marked.

A.R.-- After making a decision, should the runner stop again without a play being made before reaching the base, he/she shall be called out. The responsibility for the runners to advance or return is removed if the pitcher attempts a play on the runner.

D9 Application of the Rule

Instruction given to D9 Softball Umpires during training is that when the pitcher has control of the ball in the pitcher's circle and not making a play, then the runner needs to advance or retreat. If the runner stops or changes direction after the above requirement is met, the runner is out. To guide umpires in making this determination, they are instructed to step through the following actions:

  1. Note when the pitcher is in the pitcher's circle with the ball and not making a play
  2. Look at runner
  3. Internally count "one thousand and one"
  4. Runner is now committed on the direction they are moving and must continue in that direction

If after the above four steps the runner has not started moving, stops or changes direction while the pitcher has not made a play, then the runner is out. "Make a play" can be lifting the ball in their throwing hand to prepare or fake a throw or potentially another action that the umpire interprets as the pitcher is actively trying to get the base runner out. If the pitcher does attempt to make a play, the runner is free to then move in whichever direction they choose.

Example Scenarios

The following is a chart of typical scenarios to help managers and coaches properly train players for base running. Note that the examples are written for AAA and Coast Divisions (Minor League). For Majors and Juniors, the only changes are that runners may leave their base after the ball leaves the pitchers hand instead of when the ball reaches the batter. For additional questions, please contact uic.softball@kirklandnational.com.

Runner Status Pitcher Action Runner Action Next Steps/Results
Batter is walked Ball is not with pitcher in circle Rounds first and goes toward second Runner is free to choose to run to either base
Batter is walked Receives ball in circle before runner reaches first base Continues running past first to second base. Runner is safe provided they continue to advance and no play is attempted. If they reach second safely and stop advancing, they are safe. If pitcher attempts to make a play then the base runner may stop and then advance or retreat and they can be put out.
Batter is walked Receives ball in circle before runner reaches first base Rounds first takes one step towards second or over runs first and returns immediately to first Runner is safe per D9 umpire interpretation
Batter is walked Receives ball in circle before runner reaches first base and holds for second or two Rounds first takes two to three steps towards second and stops Runner is out. D9 ruling: Pitcher had possession, not making a play, and runner stopped and changed direction
Batter is walked Receives ball in circle before runner reaches first base and holds for second or two Overruns first base and stops on way back looking to see if they could advance to second Runner is out. D9 ruling: Pitcher had possession, not making a play, and runner stopped and changed direction
Standing on any base In circle with ball, not making a play Steps off base Runner is out
Standing on any base In process of pitching ball Steps off base before ball is batted or reaches batter Ball is called dead, runner is out, pitch doesn't count, other runners go back to their bases
Runner takes a legal lead off the base after pitch reaches batter Receives ball in circle As soon as pitcher has ball in circle under control, runner must advance or retreat Runner must decide immediately to advance or go back to the base. If they don't move, stop, or change directions, the runner is out.
Running from first to second after pitch reaches batter Receives ball in circle before runner reaches second Keeps running to second without a play made by the defense Runner is safe at second and now entitled to second base
Running from first to second after pitch reaches batter Standing with ball in circle making no attempt at a play. SS covers second, fakes receiving a throw Stops or turns back, afraid of fake catch Runner is out
Running from first to second after pitch reaches batter Standing with ball in circle, lifts the ball as if making throw to second Stops or turns back, afraid of fake throw Runner is free to choose to run to either base
Running from first to second after pitch reaches batter Receives ball in circle before runner reaches second Reaches second safely and rounds second takes one step toward third or overruns second and returns immediately Runner is safe per D9 umpire interpretation
Running from first to second after pitch reaches batter Receives ball in circle before runner reaches second Reaches second safely and rounds second towards third two to three steps Runner is out. D9 ruling: Pitcher had possession, not making a play, and runner stopped and changed direction
Running from first to second after pitch reaches batter Receives ball in circle before runner reaches second Reaches second safely and continues to third. Runner is safe provided they continue to advance and no play is attempted. If they reach third safely and stop advancing, they are safe. If pitcher attempts to make a play then the base runner may stop and then advance or retreat and they can be put out.