Play:A batter swings at a third strike, the ball hits the dirt, and the catcher catches it cleanly off the bounce. Does the catcher have to tag the batter or throw to 1st in order to record the out?
Ruling: Yes, provided there are less than two outs with no runner on 1st base, or there are two outs and 1st base is occupied. Both the Rules of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) rules agree in this case.
Both rules specify that the batter is out when a third strike is caught, or if, after a third strike is caught, the batter or 1st base is tagged before the batter-runner touches 1st base. Additionally, MLB defines that a third strike is “legally caught” when the ball is “in the catcher’s glove before it touches the ground.” The NFHS defines a “catch” generally as getting secure possession in the hand or glove “of a live ball in flight.”
Sources: MLB 6-05 (b), 6.05 (j); NFHS 2.9.1, 8.4.1 (e), 8.4.1 (f)