Scorekeeping a Sacrifice Play
With runners on base and less than two outs, the scorekeeper should be aware that a sacrifice is possible. A sacrifice bunt occurs when the batter shows the bunt early enough that the defense can react to the play and try to throw the batter out, thereby advancing the runner(s) one base. The bunter is not, in the scorekeeper’s judgment, trying to bunt for a base hit. I watch the batter’s feet – if she is running as she is trying to bunt, then she is not sacrificing.
In Fast Pitch Softball, there is also an animal called the “sacrifice slap hit”. This is where it gets tricky. A "sacrifice slap hit" is defined in the note of Rule 11, Section 2.B.1.e, as “a fake bunt followed by a controlled swing and resulting in the runner(s) advancing, as in the case of a sacrifice bunt.” Unfortunately, the rule book has nothing else to say about a "controlled swing", nor does a quick Google search turn up any wisdom. I take a “controlled swing” to mean the batter can bring the bat back into her batting stance, but cannot take a full, regular swing on the pitch (think: half swing or half-speed swing). In my opinion, the batter has to show bunt until the pitcher is about to release the ball. If she then pulls back quickly, swings and hits the ball, she sacrifices. Often, a batter will square around to bunt super early, even before the pitcher starts her wind-up. In most of those cases, I say they are not sacrificing because the batter goes back to her batting stance early enough in the pitcher's wind-up that the batter can get back set and settled in her batting stance. In short, I think “controlled swing” has to be different than a “regular swing”.
Also, do not confuse a "sacrifice slap hit" as defined in the rules with a slap hit (another play that baseball does not have) as one normally sees it in the game. A slap hitter, usually a left-handed batter, is one who starts running out of the batter’s box as she is hitting the ball. She normally does not show or fake a bunt before the pitch. As with a bunt, if the feet are moving, then they are not sacrificing.
If the scorekeeper believes that the batter’s intent is to sacrifice, then the play is scored as a sacrifice, whether the defense makes the play at first or not. For example, our batter is clearly trying to sacrifice and bunts the ball to the pitcher. The pitcher fields the ball but then throws it 20 feet over the first baseman’s head. The scorekeeper should score that as “SAC E1”. If instead the pitcher makes a good throw and the batter is out, then the play should be scored “SAC 1-3”. Alternately, if the pitcher instead throws out one of the runners, the batter instead gets a "fielder's choice", or FC, and not a sacrifice.
Another way to sacrifice is to hit a fly ball that is caught and the runner tags up and scores. The batter can also get credit for a sacrifice fly if the fielder drops the ball and, in the scorer’s judgment, the runner still could have scored if the fielder caught it. In baseball, a sacrifice fly can only be credited if the ball is hit to the outfield. In Fast Pitch softball, this is not a requirement. If the second baseman catches the ball one step from the outfield grass, and the runner tags up and beats the throw home, then that is a legal Fast Pitch sacrifice and is scored “SAC F4”.
A sacrifice will not change a player’s batting average, while a regular out, error, or fielder's choice will lower it, which is why it is important to track sacrifices. As scorekeeper, you are responsible for recording and calculating the team and player statistics, which we will discuss in a future article (The statistician in me says, “Yay!!”).
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