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4 Scenarios Where Runners Should Advance On An Infield Fly

Baseball base runner in maroon jersey sliding feet-first into third base while the third baseman is preparing to catch the throw

One of the most common questions I see about the infield fly rule is what base runners should do during an infield fly. The batter is automatically called out during an infield fly play, but what should you do if you’re on base? Can runners advance on an infield fly?

During an infield fly, base runners can advance at their own risk. However, the tag-up rule still applies and base runners must tag up before they can advance to the next base.

A vast majority of the time it makes no sense for runners to advance to the next base during an infield fly, but I was able to come up with 4 different scenarios where base runners might consider advancing to the next base. But seriously – like 99% of the time you should just stay on your base during an infield fly.

Scenario #1: No One is Covering the Next Base

Waist-down view of a baserunner rounding third base

Every once in a while, the batter hits the ball into an area of the infield that attracts the entire defense. If this happens during an infield fly, it’s possible the lead runner can make it to the next base.

Since an infield fly can only be called when runners are on first and second or the bases are loaded, the lead runner can either advance to third base or advance home, depending on the situation.

For the next base to be unoccupied, the third baseman or catcher will need to travel pretty far from their base to try to catch the fly ball (maybe the wind is blowing pretty hard). But either way, it’s possible for the next base to be unoccupied during an infield fly, which gives the lead runner the opportunity to beat the defense to the base.

Scenario #2: It’s Clear The Defense Doesn’t Understand the Infield Fly Rule

Here’s an example where the defense for an MLB team didn’t understand the infield fly rule and the runner was able to easily advance home.

The video above was a bizarre play where the base runner was able to advance during an infield fly, and he easily advanced while he was within six feet of four different defensive players who had control of the ball.

But that’s just one example. If there’s ever a situation where the base runner can tell the defense doesn’t understand the infield fly rule, the base runner can take advantage by easily advancing to the next base.

Scenario #3: The Runner is Surprising the Defense By Advancing

Base runner in red jersey taking a lead at third base while watching the pitcher

Base runners who are always on alert can advance to the next base during an infield fly if they surprise the defense.

Think of this like a delayed steal play. Once the defense catches the ball on an infield fly play, they usually assume all the runners are standing on their base and aren’t advancing. And defenses don’t typically call time after an infield fly because the ball is already in the infield.

Some players might even turn around to chat to their outfield. If the lead runner thinks no one is paying attention to him and he thinks he can safely make it to the next base, he has a chance of being safe if he successfully catches the defense off-guard.

It’s a pretty risky play, but it could pay off.

Scenario #4: There’s a Sac-Fly Opportunity When the Ball is Hit Deep Enough

Just because the name of the rule is “Infield Fly”, it doesn’t actually mean the ball needs to be hit in the infield. Take a look at the video below as an example of a controversial infield fly call.

If an infielder can easily catch a fly ball that lands in shallow outfield, the infield fly rule can still be in effect.

If there’s a fast runner on third base and the ball is hit deep enough during an infield fly, that runner can advance home to score on a sac fly. It’s still a risky play to try to make it home, but there’s always a possibility of the infielder dropping the fly ball or making a poor throw home.

The Tag Up Rule Still Applies During an Infield Fly

Youth baserunner wearing a blue number 19 jersey has his left foot on first base and his right foot in the basepath to second base

One of the reasons runners aren’t sure about what to do during an infield fly is because the tag-up rule exists. But since the batter is automatically called out, do you have to tag up on an infield fly?

Base runners need to tag up during an infield fly. While runners can advance at their own risk, tag-up rules still apply. If base runners fail to tag up during an infield fly and the defense catches the ball, the defense can turn a double play by tagging the base the runner failed to tag up on.

Even if the defense drops the fly ball, base runners should always tag up during an infield fly.

You should always assume the ball will be caught. Because once the ball is caught, the ball is already in the infield and the runner won’t have time to get back to their base safely.

The infield fly rule exists to prevent easy outs by the defense. You don’t want to accidentally create an easy out for the defense by forgetting to tag up.

Reminder: Runners Should Always Run When There Are Two Outs

With all this talk about the infield fly rule, it’s also important to remember that the infield fly rule only applies to situations where there are less than two outs.

With 2 outs in the inning, base runners should always be advancing. If the defense catches the ball, the inning is over. If the defense fails to catch the ball, the runners easily advance to the next base.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.