How to Run the Tiebreaker in Softball

If ever a fastpitch softball game is tied after the seventh inning, you may see a peculiar play unfold. A runner starts at second base at the start of the inning. Sound confusing? It’s really not.Follow along with this guide and learn how the rule is played out and strategies on how to use it!

The Tiebreaker

In softball, games are limited to seven innings or 1 hour, 40 minutes of play. But games don’t always end there. If the game is tied after either of these two limits is reached, play continues.

At the top of the eighth inning (when the visiting team is up to bat), and each half inning after that, the team on offense will start the inning with a runner on second base. This runner is the batter who is scheduled to bat last in that particular inning. For example, if the number-two batter leads off the inning, the number-one batter will serve as the runner on second base.

This runner may be substituted, allowing a team to place a faster runner on second. However, the coach must be careful of substitution rules. If a coach has already taken out the original runner once, taking her out again will remove her from the game completely. Coaches have to be aware of how it will affect the team’s defense in the next half inning to substitute a player.

The rule of having a runner start on second base will last for every consecutive inning that the game stays tied. If the visiting team is ahead in runs after the home team bats, the visiting team will win. Vice versa, if the score is tied before the home team starts to bat, the home team needs only to score one run to win the game.

Hot Tip: Keep the Bench Warm!

 Having players on the bench is great in these situations. However, their legs have to be fully warmed up if they want to help the team. After every half inning, have the nonstarters keep their legs warm with a jog to the fence and back.

Before an eighth inning, make sure these players are trading jogs for sprints as they stretch and get loose for the possibility of becoming a pinch runner. If there are any hitters or bunters on the bench, make sure they have taken a few swings beforehand, as well. When called upon, any substitute player should be fully ready to go.


There are multiple strategies a team can use to give itself the greatest advantage in a tiebreaker situation:

  1. Substitute the runner on second base for a faster or smarter runner.
  2. Use a pinch hitter if the batter up to bat is not the strongest, is in a slump, has low confidence, or is not suited for the situation (for example, she cannot bunt).

Plays at the Plate

Along with pinch hitting, there are multiple strategies a batter can use at the plate. The first goal that needs to be accomplished is to move the runner, and the easiest way to achieve that is often with a bunt. Of course, a team can rely on a batter making solid contact, but a bunt is safer and almost guaranteed to move the runner. Even with the sacrifice, there will still only be one out and a runner now on third base — a great situation.

If a team can successfully move the runner over, the next two batters have options.

  • The coach can call a squeeze play: A squeeze play risks two outs if the bunt is popped up and the runner can’t get back in time (inning over, momentum lost). It also risks losing the runner at third if the bunt is missed. However, a squeeze is just that — a risk. Sometimes you have to have faith.
  • The first batter can hit away: Normally, the defense will be playing up because there is a runner on third, so the batter has to be wary of where to place the ball. A soft hit to the second baseman will score a quick runner, but a soft hit to the shortstop won’t. If the hit is going to be hard, it has to get past the infield for the runner to score. To play it safe, the batter should aim to hit it behind the runner (on the right side of second base), long in the air (no short pop-ups), or punched through a hole. A very quick runner can use her own judgment on hits that are punched through the infield between the shortstop and third baseman (with a good lead from second, she should score easily).

The runner has to be smart. She needs to know to go on an incredibly soft hit to the shortstop or second baseman, but to hold up if it’s hit to the pitcher, first baseman, or third baseman. If the ball is popped up to the outfield, she needs to be ready to tag up.

As a general guideline, if the outfielder has to turn her back to the infield, the runner should be able to make it safely home. However, if the outfielder is coming up on the ball, only the quickest runners should be going — all others need to be 100-percent confident they can make it; otherwise they risk being hosed at the plate.

Mental Edge

 If there is a slow pitcher in the circle, or if the catcher has an inaccurate or slow throw, a quick runner can easily steal third base on the first or second pitch. A steal on the first pitch probably won’t even be expected. If successful, the team on offense will have a runner on third with no outs!

Who Wants to Rally?

In the event of a tiebreaker, the team on offense has to rally and come together. Having a runner at second is a huge morale and confidence booster. In ideal situations, two pitches will get her home: One to bunt her over, and the next to hit her in. But, if a team can’t make that happen, it has three outs to do so. No matter what, you want your runner on second to be smart and speedy to give your team an advantage. After that the only question is, who will step up and win the game?

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