The basic rules of softball
The main difference in basic rules between slowpitch softball, fastpitch softball and baseball.
Fastpitch softball is often characterized by minimal numbers of runs, drag bunts and delayed steals. It is a game where pitching and defense truly wins games and the rules help contribute toward this style of play.
Pitchers have to be cognizant of their mechanics because the rules regarding fastpitch motions are very strict. All pitchers have to "present" or show the ball to a hitter before beginning their motion and they are not allowed to take a "crow-hop" or extra step off their back foot when following through on a pitch. This can be a difficult mechanic to teach young pitchers and many umpires let the rule slide at the lower age divisions but once a player advances to high school ball, the mechanics must be accurate.
In addition a chalked circle surrounds the pitching mound approximately 5 feet wide in diameter. Whenever a pitcher has control of the ball and is inside of that circle, any baserunners must either commit to a base or be standing on a base. If a baserunner begins to step off a base when a pitcher is in the circle, he or she is out. If a baserunner is between bases as a pitcher moves into the circle, that baserunner must make an immediate decision to commit to one base or he or she is called out.
Base stealing is also different from baseball. First of all, the distance between bases is less than regulation baseball. In fastpitch softball, runners cannot lead off a base until the ball leaves the pitcher's hand during a pitch. At that point, a runner can either attempt to steal or lead off a base.
In some leagues, there is a double first base that has been developed for safety purposes. One base is located in fair territory and one base is in foul territory. The base in foul territory is orange, and is the base a runner should touch when trying to beat out a close play at first. The white bag in fair territory is the base a fielder should touch when making a putout at first base.
This base is in place in softball in large part because of the number of bunting that occurs during the game. It helps to prevent collisions at first base.
The rest of the rules are very similar to baseball. Again, it depends on the type of league a player is participating in. Some leagues allow for a courtesy runner for the pitcher and catcher. In addition some leagues allow for a 10th hitter in the lineup, which serves as a designated hitter, as long as both teams agree.
Slowpitch softball is definitely a hitter's game. There is no stealing or leadoffs, and pitches in most leagues that have an arc of below 6 feet or above 12 feet are considered illegal. If the illegal pitch is taken, it is automatically a ball, but a hitter does have the option of hitting an illegal pitch.
The strike zone is determined by where the ball crosses the plate in relation to the hitter and where it lands behind the plate. Generally if a pitch lands within the strike zone inside of the batter's box behind the plate, it is a strike. Leagues either use an umpire behind home plate to manually call balls and strikes, or a mat which measures whether or not a pitch is a strike by where it lands.
A few things to consider:
- Some bats may be considered illegal in one league and legal in another for both fastpitch and slowpitch.
- The mercy rule or time limit varies from league to league.
- Substitution rules can also vary based on the league. American Softball Association (ASA) rules stipulate that a player can be substituted only for an injury but there is a re-entry rule that affects both fastpitch and slowpitch.