Quick Learn

Look Back Rule In Softball Explained

By / 16 May 2023 07:51 AM

softball look back rule
Source : instagram

Look back rule in softball is applied when the Pitcher controls the ball around the pitcher's mound. The rule is put in when the pitcher is not making a defensive play.

This rule aims to stop players from moving between bases when the ball is in control of a pitcher in the pitcher's circle.

For the rule to be in effect, a pitcher needs to have control of the ball and be in the pitcher's circle. Another crucial consideration is that pitchers should not be engaged in a defensive play.

If such a situation arises, runners between the bags must move to the next place or return to their previous base. If a runner is already on a bag, she must stop.

Not complying with the rule or leaving the bases results in the runner getting called out. It's crucial to note the assessments of the runner and his ability to make the decision quickly.

If a pitcher commits defensive actions, including throwing toward the base, running toward the runner, or feinting, the rule does not imply to the game. In such cases, the umpire holds the right to determine the violation and consequences. 

Look Back Rule

Softball Look Back rule requires a runner within the bases either to advance to the next base or retreat to the previous base once the possession is made.

The regulation is applied when a runner is off base after a pitch or a batter completes her turn. For the Look Back Rule to remain active, the thrower and batter should be stationary while the pitcher has the ball in the circle.

In this scene, the runner should either move to the next spot or return to their original place immediately. The thrower is not accountable for seeing, faking, or throwing in this situation.

Tennessee player in her 14 Jersey for SEC Tournaments.
Source : instagram

The regulation is applied once the batter-runner touches the first spot or gets called out. At the same time, the thrower needs to obtain control of the ball within the circle.

Failing to proceed to the next spot or return to the original place by the racer when a thrower has the ball in the circle leads to the racer getting called out. Meanwhile, if the runner returns or stops at any spot and leaves, she is also deemed out.

Exceptions to Look Back Rule

Several exception bonds the rules in softball. Here are some scenarios where the exception implies during a play in softball.

  • When a play is made on another racer,
  • Thrower exits the circle or drops the ball,
  • Thrower throws the ball to the batter, or
  • The thrower places the ball under their arm or between their legs to free both hands for fixing their uniform.

In these cases, the participant is not reported out and may resume the game.

Some Other Instances

In case of multiple runners are off the spot, Umpire holds the right to call the racer out. In such a situation, it should be clear which racer was first called out and return the remaining players to their base.

It is illegitimate to announce to outs in a scene where a racer is out and the ball is dead. However, if a thrower fields a ball in the circle, participants are allowed to leave bases, but they should decide which way to resume once they stop or get called out.

Getting a base on balls or a dropped third strike is considered a batted ball. It is applicable if the batter-racer moves past the first base without stopping or stops only once and instantly moves one way or the other.

On the contrary, if the racer waits at the first spot and steps off the base after the ball is in the thrower's possession in the circle, it leads to being called out.

University of Kentucky Softball Team after their victory in a match.
Source : instagram

Batter-runner overrunning the first spot are not allowed to start back to the base and advance to the second spot before getting to the first.

The umpire judgment is applicable if a batter-racer commits the first spot and moves, they must retain their initial place and cannot advance to second base.

In the case of moving forward a base, except for the first when the thrower receives the ball in the circle, the runner can stop once and should instantly move to the next spot or retain the previous one. Failure may result in a called-out.

If the racer is off base and does not promptly try to move or return after the thrower gets the ball inside the mound will make the player out. 
Pitchers Ball Possession

The pitcher should have custody of the ball while it is in the circle. Placing it on the ground, holding it between the legs or under the arm is not having control.

Feet the player must be within the eight-foot circle within (partially) the lines. However, if either foot is entirely out of the lines, the pitcher will not be valid. 

Base Running Rules

Softball base running rules is baserunners can either retreat or advance to the next base after the pitcher has the ball around the pitcher's mound.

Baserunners must touch each plate in the correct order. All other bases except for the first require them to stay on the base to avoid being tagged and called out.

The first bag allows the runners to overrun it. The players are not allowed to lead off the plate and should halt at their position until the pitcher releases the ball.

Laurin Krings during a NCAA tournament in her jersey.
Source : instagram

In case of the fly ball is caught by the opponents, the baserunners must first tag the occupied base before moving to the next one. It is necessary that a runner cannot pass another who is already ahead of them.

Additionally, stealing a base is strictly restricted in the game. Violation of these regulations may result in declaring out.

In case of being tagged with the ball before reaching a bag, the ball reaching the first bag before the racer or running more than three feet out of the baseline to avoid being tagged results in calling out.

Actions and Consequences for Runners in Bases

The batter becomes a batter-runner when a batter hits a fair ball or a dropped third strike happens. In such a situation, others have chances to move but at the risk of calling out.

If a fair batted ball unintentionally hits a bag racer or an umpire after touching a fielder, the runners may also move with the liability to put out.

Baserunners can advance if they legally overrun or overslide the first bag but try to proceed further or after a delayed dead ball or live ball award is reached.

A player can also advance if a pitched ball hits an umpire, becomes lodged in a defensive player's uniform or equipment, or enters foul territory without being blocked.

Furthermore, baserunners can advance when a pitch leaves the pitcher's hand, a legally caught fly ball is first touched, a pitch hits an umpire, a pitch enters foul territory without being blocked, a foul tip is legally caught, or an infield fly is not caught.

However, runners bear the risk of being called out under various circumstances, such as being tagged by a fielder, violating the look-back, physically passing a preceding runner, abandoning their bag or their effort to run the bag, or committing an act of interference.

The batter-runner can be declared out if they get put out before getting to the first bag, hit a legally caught ball, deliberately drop a fair fly ball, or interrupt the fielder taking the throw at the first base.

Substitution Rules

NCAA Softball substitution rules is any player can get substituted at any time when the ball is dead after the coach notifies the umpire of the substitution.

Substitutes are considered if the substitution is reported and accepted by the plate umpire, and they announce the player to the opposing coach.

One player replaces the other in this type of substitution. However, in case of multiple substitutions, the players should be recorded to the correct spots and in the line-up card.

If a pitcher needs to get replaced, she can be substituted before a pitch delivery regardless of the first batter At bat.

A SEC Tournament in the Bogle Park with participants from different groups.
Source : instagram

However, in case of an injured player replacement, the player is given adequate warmup time. The ball is considered dead if the injured player cannot move to an awarded field.


The replacements in softball games are neither expected nor announced previously. If the substitute is needed, the coach can call for a timeout before at bat and inform the plate umpire of the incoming and outgoing player numbers.

The players, including starters and substitutes, can re-enter the game for one time. However, they should continue from the same position in the line-up from where they left.

Leaving the tournament for a second time restricts the player from re-entering. These re-entries are not planned or announced.

The possibilities of assigning multiple players to the same position in the line-up are there. But only one player can enter the field at any given time. 

Related post of Quick Learn