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Fed: Pickoff Attempt to Unoccupied Base - No Throw


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Here's the situation from my 14u game under Fed rules today:

R1 leading off, no other runners. 

F1 comes set, lifts his foot, and spins around like he's attempting a pickoff move to 2nd base.

F1 does not throw the ball, then feints a throw to 1st base and R1 goes back in safely.

In the moment, I couldn't quite remember the exact rule on this. I called a balk because 2nd base was unoccupied and R1 was not stealing. No argument from anyone on the field at the time.

After the game, I found the exact rule with a caveat I had forgotten about:

NFHS rule 6-2-4b states the following is a balk, "throwing or feinting to any unoccupied base when it is not an attempt to put out or drive back a runner."

The part in bold has me wondering if my balk call was correct in this situation. No throw was made, so there was no attempt to put out the runner. However, the pump fake to 1st did drive back the runner.

My question is therefore two-fold:

1. Do you have a balk in this situation?

2. Would your call be any different if he actually threw the ball to 1st base after attempting a pickoff to an unoccupied base?

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Thank you fellow umpires!

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As you describe it, you made a correct call. If the runner had not been making any feints toward second base—just taking a lead from first-- then the pitcher stepping toward unoccupied second base is a balk. The umpire (you in this case) must judge that it is reasonable for the pitcher to believe he had a play at second base—here is an online case play illustrating this.

2013 NFHS Baseball Rules Interpretations

SITUATION 20: With runners at first base and second base, the runner at second bluffs a steal of third by running hard to third before he stops and retreats back to second base. The pitcher, seeing the runner take off hard to third base, legally throws to the unoccupied third base. The third-base coach wants a balk called on the pitcher since the runner from second stopped. RULING: A pitcher may throw or feint a throw to an unoccupied base in an attempt to put out or drive back a runner. As long as the umpire judges that it is reasonable for the pitcher to believe he had a play at third, even though the runner stopped, it is a legal move. (6-2-4b)

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