Ball 4, Take 2: Can You Really Steal on a Walk in Softball?

Last updated on September 5, 2023

It’s something extremely uncommon to see, but the truth is: you can steal a base on a walk. The main reasons they’re so uncommon is because they only occur when A) the defense (usually the pitcher) is distracted and not paying attention or B) the runner on base has (uncommonly) exceptional speed.

In general, stealing bases is a common strategy in softball that can help a team gain an advantage over their opponents. However, the rules for stealing bases vary depending on the level of play and the league rules. In most leagues, players are allowed to steal bases, provided they do not leave the base before the pitcher has released the ball.

Understanding Softball Rules

Softball is a popular sport played by people of all ages, from little league to high school and beyond. Whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned player, it’s important to understand the rules of softball to play the game safely and fairly.

In fastpitch softball, runners are allowed to steal on a walk. Once the fourth ball is called, the batter is awarded first base, and all other runners may advance at their own risk. On the other hand, stealing is generally not allowed in slow pitch softball, so runners cannot steal on a walk.

It’s important to note that there are other rules in softball that can affect stealing on a walk. For example, in little league games, there may be rules about how many bases a runner can steal on a single play. In high school games, there may be rules about how long a pitcher can take between pitches.

Stealing Bases in Softball

When it comes to softball, stealing bases can be an exciting and strategic part of the game. A stolen base occurs when a baserunner advances to the next base while the pitcher is in the circle and the ball is in play. It can be a risky move, but if executed properly, it can help your team score more runs and put pressure on the defense.

To successfully steal a base, the baserunner needs to have good timing, speed, and awareness. They need to be able to read the pitcher’s movements and anticipate when they will throw the ball. It’s also important to have a good jump off the base and to slide into the next base safely to avoid getting tagged out.

Strategies and Techniques

When it comes to stealing bases in softball, there are a few key strategies and techniques that can help you improve your success rate. Here are some things to keep in mind:


Timing is everything when it comes to stealing a base. You need to watch the pitcher carefully and try to anticipate when they’re going to throw the ball. As soon as you see the pitcher start their windup, take off for the next base. If you time it right, you’ll have a good chance of making it safely.

Sliding and diving

When you’re trying to steal a base, you need to be prepared to slide or dive if necessary. Sliding is usually the safer option, but if you need to get to the base quickly, a dive might be your best bet. Just be sure to practice your sliding and diving techniques beforehand so you don’t get hurt.


Sometimes, the opposing team will try to catch you in a pickle (also known as a rundown). This is when they throw the ball back and forth between fielders in an attempt to tag you out. If you find yourself in a pickle, try to keep it going by changing directions quickly and faking out the fielders.

Baserunners side-by-side

Specific Game Situations

When it comes to stealing on a walk in softball, there are several game situations where it might make sense to attempt a steal. Here are a few specific scenarios where stealing on a walk could be a good idea:

Situation 1: Single Baserunner

If you have a single baserunner on first base and ball four is called, the baserunner should be paying close attention to the pitcher and whether or not the pitcher and third baseman are paying attention to said runner. If the third baseman is too far away from the base and not looking, this might be a good opportunity for a runner with good speed to try and sneak behind them and see if you can take an extra base.

Situation 2: Slow Pitch

In slow pitch softball, stealing is generally not allowed. However, if you’re playing in a league where stealing is allowed, stealing on a walk could be a good way to take advantage of the slower pitching speed. Since the ball is easier to see and the pitcher has to release the ball underhand, it can be easier to get a good jump on the pitch and steal a base.

Situation 3: Intentional Walk

If the opposing team is intentionally walking a batter to load the bases, stealing on a walk could be a good way to keep the defense on their toes. In rare instances, you’ll find the catcher and pitcher both with their backs to the plate. This makes for an excellent time to break for the plate, especially late in a close game.

Situation 4: Passed Ball or Wild Pitch

If there’s a passed ball or wild pitch, stealing on a walk could be a good way to take advantage of the situation. If the runner can get a good jump and steal second base, they’ll be in scoring position and have a better chance of scoring on a base hit. However, it’s important to be careful and make sure the ball is far enough away from the catcher before attempting a steal.

Understanding the Look Back Rule

When playing softball, it’s important to understand the rules that govern the game. One such rule is the Look Back Rule. According to the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, the rule states: “The runner(s) may stop once, but then must immediately return to the base or attempt to advance to the next base. Once the runner stops at a base for any reason, she will be declared out if she leaves the base.”

When you’re approaching a base, you should circle around it to keep your momentum going. This is especially important if you’re running at a high speed. If you try to stop and turn around, you’ll lose valuable time and may even violate the Look Back Rule.

Ball sitting in pitching circle

Frequently Asked Questions

When are you allowed to steal bases in softball?

In fastpitch softball, you are allowed to steal bases once the pitcher releases the ball. In slow pitch softball, there is no stealing allowed. However, in both versions of the game, runners can leave the base once the ball crosses home plate.

What is the rule for stealing third base on a walk?

In fastpitch softball, you are allowed to steal third base on a walk as long as the pitcher is in the pitching circle and the catcher is in the catcher’s box. In slow pitch softball, there is no stealing allowed, even on a walk.

Are there any restrictions on leading off in slow pitch softball?

Yes, in slow pitch softball, runners are not allowed to leave the base until the ball is hit. If a runner leaves the base early, it is considered a dead ball and the runner is out.

Remember, the rules for stealing in softball can vary depending on the league and level of play. Be sure to check with your coach or league officials to get the most accurate information.

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