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Softball - Runner Interference Rule


BlueSky

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Full disclosure: I'm an OU fan but this question stems from curiosity, not sour grapes. I haven't played or watched enough softball to know how this is usually ruled.

Situation: 7th inning, Alabama leading 5-3, OU at bat with 1 out and the bases empty. The batter hit a slow roller up the first base line. The 1B advanced to field the ball and collided with the runner, who was called out for interference. I can't post a link to the video from where I am but will later if anyone needs it.

I understand the rule, which says the runner cannot interfere with a fielder making a play on the ball, and I also understand the OU runner was wrong for trying to pass to the left of the fielder instead of right. But...the fielder clearly took a step to her right and threw a shoulder block on the runner, knocking her to the ground, and still had time to lean back to her left, field the ball, and throw to first. Can the fielder deliberately hit the runner or intentionally move into the runner's path? Is it anything goes for the fielder if the runner is inside the foul line?

And of course the next batter hit a two-out homer that would've tied the game. Oh well.

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I don't understand the rule, she was right on the baseline and I have always been under the impression is that the runner has the right of way....but if softball does it differently that's fine, but it still looked to me like the girl fielding leaned out initiating contact.

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Actually, in baseball, the runner is supposed to be outside of the baseline; that's why they have the second line marked, to create a running lane.

In rec softball, they'll often have a double base at first; the runner is to run to the outer orange portion of the base.

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Here is how I interpret the rule from a baseball point of view...

The fielder is entitled to a straight path to field the batted ball. The runner can change his/her path to avoid the oncoming fielder, as there is no "running out of the baseline" unless it's to avoid a tag. The runner shouldn't be trying to run through fielders anyway...that would delay getting to a base. The runner can always avoid a fielder..that's why they're encouraged to "give up" if out on a force play, or turn away from the second part of a double play (turn toward outfield or infield). Either way, once the batter makes contact and puts the ball into play, the players with "right of way" are the fielders trying to make a play on it.

Sometimes incidental contact happens, and you can't punish either player with obstruction or interference...most often this happens when a throw to first base goes wide to the home plate side, and the first basemen's arm movement carries directly in front on the incoming runner, like a clothesline. It's a very ugly collision, but not directly initiated by anyone, so we as umpires have to let it go.

In the case described, even though the fielder may have thrown an unnecessary shoulder block, there would not have been any contact had the runner stayed to the outside of the lane. So it's runner interference by rule.

Umpire's discretion may also dictate an ejection of the fielder if the contact was flagrant.

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Do not use a "baseball perspective" as it is not baseball, it is softball. Also, do not read into it with ASA, PONY or even USSSA rules as the NCAA has it's own rulebook.

In the opinion of PU (Plate Umpire), the batter/runner was out because of this:

12.2.2 The batter-runner shall not interfere with a fielder attempting to field a batted ball.

12.4.13 (A batter/runner is out) When she interferes with a fielder attempting to field a batted ball, interferes with a fielder attempting to throw the ball, intentionally interferes with a thrown ball while out of the batter?s box, makes contact with a fair batted ball before reaching first base or interferes with a dropped third strike.

The incident occurred prior to the runner's lane, thus it was the call of the PU not U1. In addition, the runner's lane is only in effect when the defense is taking at throw at 1B.

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Do not use a "baseball perspective" as it is not baseball, it is softball. Also, do not read into it with ASA, PONY or even USSSA rules as the NCAA has it's own rulebook.

In the opinion of PU (Plate Umpire), the batter/runner was out because of this:

12.2.2 The batter-runner shall not interfere with a fielder attempting to field a batted ball.

12.4.13 (A batter/runner is out) When she interferes with a fielder attempting to field a batted ball, interferes with a fielder attempting to throw the ball, intentionally interferes with a thrown ball while out of the batter?s box, makes contact with a fair batted ball before reaching first base or interferes with a dropped third strike.

The incident occurred prior to the runner's lane, thus it was the call of the PU not U1. In addition, the runner's lane is only in effect when the defense is taking at throw at 1B.

If that's the case, I really don't get the call. The runner didn't interfere, she was clearly trying to avoid contact and was taken out by the fielder. What would be the ump's alternative if he/she concluded the fielder initiated contact? Award the runner 1B? And have you seen the play I'm talking about?

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The play is here at around the 1:15 mark.

The NCAA's Softball Rules Editor, Dee Abrhamson said this after the game with a question from a Tulsa World reporter:

The rule is the fielder has to be given the opportunity to field the ball without being interfered with. What happened on that play was in the umpire's judgment, the fielder was about to field the ball and the runner ran into her and prevented her from having a chance to make a play. It doesn't even say make an out, but make a play. She didn't get that opportunity. The home plate umpire was sure she had it (the call) but to be sure, especially with some of the physical play that's gone on in our tournament this year, she called her associate in just to make sure that at the last minute he didn't see something different. He said, 'No, I got what you got.'

'It's a pretty simple rule. It's pretty automatic. It just turned out to be a huge play in the game.

A follow-up I asked Abrahamson: If the fielder initiates contact in that situation, could the runner be awarded first base?

'If the fielder is there and goes more to make contact rather than to get the ball, in the umpire's judgment they could say no (runner's) interference. That's another good reason to check with your partner to say, 'Hey, are you sure you got what I got?' Sometimes they're fielding a ball and it takes a bad hop and they end up getting pulled into the runner. But the fielder has priority.'

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After seeing the video, that's about as blatant a case of runner's interference as there can be. A left-handed hitter has no justification for being in fair territory while running to first base to begin with, let alone several feet into fair territory that far up the line.

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I can't pull up that video on my phone, but it sounds like the runner should have been called out.

I know the rules vary by governing body, but it reminds me of a rec league situation where I initiated contact and the other player got disciplined. We were playing a game in which the first baseman repeatedly got between the runner and the bag, not to make a play but to inentionally slow the runner down. When he tried doing it to me, I ran through him at full speed and laid him out flat. The other team's pitcher immediatley argued for an out, but the ump came over and ejected the other guy for repeated interference.

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Goodness gracious...after seeing the video, how can you question that call? It was absolutely interference on the runner. I can understand your frustration with what seems to be a thrown shoulder towards the runner...and there is a slight case that it was intentional.

Either way though, the runner took a mind boggling path towards first base (I still can't believe a player of college level would do that) and probably confused the hell out of the 1st baseman...especially if her actions towards her were based on the read she was getting from the ball. Hard to prove...what isn't hard to prove is the runner is interfering and should be out.

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Goodness gracious...after seeing the video, how can you question that call? It was absolutely interference on the runner. I can understand your frustration with what seems to be a thrown shoulder towards the runner...and there is a slight case that it was intentional.

Either way though, the runner took a mind boggling path towards first base (I still can't believe a player of college level would do that) and probably confused the hell out of the 1st baseman...especially if her actions towards her were based on the read she was getting from the ball. Hard to prove...what isn't hard to prove is the runner is interfering and should be out.

No, I agree the runner was ridiculously out of position and had she taken the proper path, there would have been no call. I'm only irritated because to me the contact was clearly an intentional shoulder block. But if the runner goes the right way, the fielder never has a chance to flatten her.

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I'm only irritated because to me the contact was clearly an intentional shoulder block.

Which is why the umpire has the discretion to eject a player for excessive or flagrant contact.

In a game I worked today (it's baseball, by the way, before I get admonished for bringing in info from a different sport), the batter hit the ball softly about 20 feet down the third base line. The pitcher fielded the ball, and threw to first, almost directly down the path where the batter-runner was headed. The batter-runner collided with the first baseman, and ended up with a bloody nose, and the first baseman dropped the ball. Runner is safe at first.

Our ruling was incidental contact. The batter-runner stayed in his legal path (towards the outside of the basepath), but the throw took the first basement directly into the oncoming runner.

So sometimes contact happens, and there is no ruling.

In the case of the softball game, it was clearly runner interference.

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Actually, the call was horrible to say the least. I understand the runner was in the field, but the 1B made no attempt to actually field the ball and threw the should to interfere with the runner. The runner should be out based on where she was running, but the 1B also should be penalized somehow for going out of her way to make contact. I'm not sure how you call two wrongs. I would say the fielder initializing contact is the bigger of the wrongs and should take priority. There was no need for the contact whatsoever.

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Actually, the call was horrible to say the least. I understand the runner was in the field, but the 1B made no attempt to actually field the ball and threw the should to interfere with the runner. The runner should be out based on where she was running, but the 1B also should be penalized somehow for going out of her way to make contact. I'm not sure how you call two wrongs. I would say the fielder initializing contact is the bigger of the wrongs and should take priority. There was no need for the contact whatsoever.

Prior to entering the runner's lane, the batter/runner can move wherever they wish towards 1B.

Now, in BlueSky's original post, I answered why the batter/runner was ruled guilty of interference. I later gave the NCAA rules editor's explaination of the ruling and where the rule were to be applied if there was obstruction as in Rule 9.3- Obstruction and 9.4.2- Fielder Obstruction (FYI, she is a former coach at No. Illinois and now is Assoc. AD there).

It was a judgment call, but not the worst call of the night. The rain made the field conditions so bad that the only reason the game was played was because of the TV space on Wednesday night.

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Actually, the call was horrible to say the least. I understand the runner was in the field, but the 1B made no attempt to actually field the ball and threw the should to interfere with the runner. The runner should be out based on where she was running, but the 1B also should be penalized somehow for going out of her way to make contact. I'm not sure how you call two wrongs. I would say the fielder initializing contact is the bigger of the wrongs and should take priority. There was no need for the contact whatsoever.

I'd go exactly the other way - the runner left her lane and deliberately interfered with the fielder, so her wrong was far, far greater. The runner was on the fielder's right at the moment of contact. The fielder's shoulder, strange as it may seem, was a defensive posture against an athlete running full-speed at her.

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