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If you watch a softball game, one difference from baseball that you might appreciate is a lack of pick-off attempts where the pitcher throws the ball to a base in an attempt to get a runner out who is leading off the base. This is because softball rules don't allow runners to steal bases before the pitch leaves a pitcher's hand. Slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball rules differ in terms of when a runner is allowed to be off the base.
ASA slow-pitch softball rules require that a base runner be called out if he leaves the base before a pitched ball hits the ground, is hit by a batter or touches the ground. The only exception is with 16-inch slow-pitch softball, where base runners can leave the base as soon as the ball is declared ready for play by the umpire
In fast-pitch softball games sanctioned by the ASA, base runners are allowed to leave the base before the ball reaches the plate. However, they must stay on the base until the ball leaves the pitcher's hand. In college softball games sanctioned by the NCAA, the runner also must stay on the base until the pitch is released by the pitcher.
In both slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball, a player is out if she leaves the base before she is legally allowed to do so. If this happens, the runner is immediately out and a dead ball is declared by the umpire. This means that the result of the play does not count including a ball or strike against a batter or the result of the ball being hit into play. Any other base runners remain at their original base.
The Look Back Rule
In ASA fast-pitch softball, the Look Back Rule applies when a ball is hit in play and the batter is either put out or reaches base and the pitcher has the ball in his hand within the pitching mound, the 8-foot radius around the pitching strip. If a runner is off the base when this happens, he can stop once but then must immediately attempt to advance to the next base or return to the previous base.
In both ASA and NCAA softball, a base runner must stand on the base to tag up and attempt to advance to the next base on a fly ball. A player is not allowed to stand behind the base in an attempt to get a running start. If she does this, she is automatically out but the play is live and other baserunners can advance.