Dropped 3rd strike rule
In both baseball and softball, at the older ages (generally once they allow unlimited stealing), the dropped 3rd strike rule is in effect. Here it is: if 1st base is unoccupied with less than 2 outs, or anytime with 2 outs, a 3rd strike that hits the ground before being secured by the catcher, is a live ball and the runner may attempt to advance to 1st base (and must be put out in the normal force play fashion).
One intent of this rule is to ensure that a defensive player fields the ball cleanly in order for that team to record an out. It was thought that it was not enough that the offensive player be unsuccessful at the plate in order for an out to be made; a defensive player must be successful as well.
Rule-sets vary as to when the batter (now the batter-runner) retains the right to attept 1st base. In major league baseball, for example, the batter is out once he leaves the circl around home plate. In high-school baseball, he can attempt up until the time he enters his dugout or team area.
Finally – the term “dropped 3rd strike rule” is technically incorrect. The ball must be uncaught, not necessarily dropped.