Hey Blue: Uncaught Third Strike Rule (aka “dropped third strike”)

By Bob Downey, Hanover LL UIC 2014

Some folks are confused as to why sometimes batters are allowed to try and reach first base after “Strike Three”  has been called and why other times they are not allowed.

It always involves a situation when the catcher does not catch the third strike but other events also affect how the rule is enforced.  

1)      It depends on which level of Little League Baseball or ASA JO Girls Fastpitch Softball is being played.  Typically Tee Ball, Coach Pitch, Rookie Kid Pitch and Minors, do not allow a batter to attempt to reach first base after “Strike Three” has been called.  In the York area, ASA Softball does not allow until girls are playing in the 12U bracket or higher.

2)      For the upper levels of play, the rules basically allows a batter to attempt to reach first base if “Strike Three” occurs and the pitch is not caught by the catcher providing:

    1. first base is unoccupied or
    2. first base is occupied with two outs

This secondary situation can be thought of as “The defense has to make the last out.”

 

Related to this subject is an understanding of what constitutes a “Catch” in this situation.  Simply put, the ball has to go directly from the pitcher to the catcher’s mitt and be caught without touching the ground or other object.  A ball thrown in the dirt in front of the plate, at which the batter swings for “Strike Three” , is NOT A CATCH; even if the catcher catches the ball on the bounce.  The fact that the ball did not go directly from the pitcher to the catcher’s mitt, makes this an uncaught ball. This is why the correct name for rule is the “Uncaught Third Strike Rule”.  But for years folks have mistakenly thought of it as only applying when the catcher drops the pitch and thus referred to the rule as the “Dropped third strike rule”.  

 

Little League Rules 6.05 and 6.09, and ASA, Rule 8.1.b are the applicable rule sections that cover this topic.