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Softball/Ground Rule Double?


Hi Mark,
Please advise the correct rulings based on two opinions below in reference to an ASA menís slow-pitch softball game.

Defensive Opinion:
A hit ball rolls to the fence without being touched.  Defense states it goes into a hole by the fence pole. (It took the outfielder a lot of time to get the ball out of the hole).  Defense thinks the play should have been a ground rule double.  During the same play, the umpire calls time in the middle of the play.  Umpire asks what happened to the ball and the story is told.  Umpire then rewards the batter home.  Defense questions how can the umpire call time and stop the play, then award the hitter home?  Defense states once the umpire called time the play is over no matter what happened and the runners return to the last base they touched.  

Umpires Opinion:
Batter hits the ball and gets past the outfielder, rolls to the fence. Umpire is watching the runner round the bases making sure he is touching the bases. When umpire looks back to the outfield, the outfielder is laying on his stomach. Umpire hears their 3rd baseman say it rolled under the fence. At this point the hitter / runner was past third and on his way home, umpire called time and sent the runner back to second base. Umpire asked the outfielder if the ball went under the fence and outfielder said no.  Umpire thought he heard the outfielder say his foot got caught in a hole, which would explain why he was lying on his stomach. In umpires opinion that was defensive obstruction on the third baseman and it was umpires judgment that the hitter/runner would have scored. So umpire awarded the hitter/runner home.

The umpire later learned from on-site staff the defense complained the ball fell into a hole, not that it went under the fence. The outfielder did come up with the ball eventually and threw it back in.

In the end, umpire wanted to make sure the right call was made which was that the batter / runner would have easily scored.

Hi Jake,

At first glance this appears to be a mess, and it was because of the umpire, but sorting it out wasn't too hard.  

If the ball was stuck under the fence or something similar the defense should should raise both hands in the air and stop.  They should not attempt to reach for or touch the ball. If the player touches the ball it remains live and we play on. We allow play to continue and then when play stops we go out and take a look.  If the ball was trapped under the fence it is 2 bases from the time of the pitch.  

I see that the ball was never under the fence later in your OP but in a hole by it.  This should be addressed by the local ground rules.  If local ground rules address it the same as a trapped ball the defense should have done the same as if it were trapped under the fence.

The umpire should not have called time in the middle of the play. F5's opinion doesn't count. Live play should have continued as there was no reason to stop it.  I don't have obstruction on F5 as it was the PU's mistake to call time because of something they heard, not a good idea.

"Defense states once the umpire called time the play is over no matter what happened and the runners return to the last base they touched."  No, that's not a rule.

I'm not penalizing the offense because I screwed up as an umpire (and the defense maybe did too).  If I thought the b-r would have achieved home, that's my award, and it seems that what they did.



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Dr. Mark R. Ambrose


I can answer all questions about book rules and "case book" rules governing the playing of ASA softball. Have a REAL situation that happened and are not sure the proper rule was applied, ask me.


I am a registered ASA umpire, a MASA "At-Large" umpire since 1996 and a retired District Umpire-In-Chief. I have very extensive experience in MASA State Championship and ASA national qualifying tournament play both as an umpire and an Umpire-In-Chief. I completed 3 ASA National Schools including the ASA national advanced umpire school in Ok City("Bernie" for those who know him was the lead clinician, I survived the week and couldn't let my kids watch the game tapes when I got home. No, I love you Bernie). I was one of 4 "Yankee" umpires selected to umpire the Men's D National East Championship in 2002 in Winter Haven FL

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