Runner Hit With a Thrown Ball: When Is That an Out?

Discussion in 'The Umpires Life and Rulings' started by Long Baller, May 15, 2019.

  1. Long Baller

    Long Baller Active Member

    I was watching a college came awhile ago, and an interesting play manifested: Slapper lays down a drag bunt. She comes out of the front of the box (as slappers do) and is taking a direct/angled path to first base, so she is in fair territory running towards foul territory. Catcher fields the bunt, throws towards first, and drills the runner right in the back. The runner made no attempt to impede the play, she was simply sprinting the most direct path towards first base. Umpire rules the runner out for interference since she was in fair territory when hit. I know that there is something with the "running lane" to first, but I thought something just recently changed with that? I'm not sure....

    Conversely, what would happen if there is a runner on 3rd base, and the first baseman fields a hard hit grounder and goes home? If the first baseman drills the runner in the chest with the ball, would the runner at home be out on interference?
  2. BretMan2

    BretMan2 TSZ/OFC Umpire in Chief

    The three-foot running lane applies on plays at first base. The lane starts 1/2 way to first base and is located entirely in foul territory.

    On plays at first base, if a runner is outside of the running lane and impedes the fielder from taking the throw at the base, then the ball is dead and the runner is out for interference.

    (I don’t work college ball, but follow their rule changes. I believe that two years ago they tried to eliminate the running lane, then this year they brought it back again.)

    For your second play, the running lane applies ONLY to plays at first base. For all other plays, a runner accidentally hit by a thrown ball is not a rule violation. To be called out for interference with a thrown ball a runner would need to do something intentional to interfere.
    RedsDad likes this.
  3. Long Baller

    Long Baller Active Member

    Thanks for your input on the rule. Is there any umpire discretion in that situation, or is it absolute? Say, if the throw is low or even bounces into the base runner, can the umpire rule that it wasn't a sure out, and not call interference? Is the baserunner out regardless because she was hit outside the running lane, even if the out wasn't probable?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2020
  4. BretMan2

    BretMan2 TSZ/OFC Umpire in Chief

    The throw must be a “quality throw”. This means it is directed at the base and would be reasonably catchable.

    If the throw sails ten feet over the bag into right field that is not a quality throw, even if the fielder threw it high due to the runner being out of the lane.

    A fielder might think that they can throw the ball at the runner to get an out. But if the umpire judges that the throw couldn’t have been caught then it’s not interference.

    Regardless, any benefit of the doubt should go to the defense if the runner is actually out of the lane.
  5. JoeA1010

    JoeA1010 Active Member

    It was always an out in Whiffle Ball.

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