Nature and Purpose
It is estimated that over thirty million adults and youngsters annually play some form of competitive or recreatoinal softball in the United States. The fact that the game can be played with a minimum of equipment in a reasonably small area contributes greatly to its being played in a variety of places and on a variety of occasions. The keen competition between teams, the advent of lighted parks, the brief time span of a game (approximately one hour), and the variety of age groups participating have brought additional millions to the ballparks to watch their favorite team or person play. The game of softball has truly become one of America's favorite sports for the player and spectator alike.
Basic Rules
The rules of softball are patterned after those of baseball, making it very similar to the parent game. Pitching and several rules concerning field dimensions and equipment are different. A breif summary of the rules is given below, but players should study a copy of the Official Rules in order to become familiar with all regulations governing the game.
The games of slow pitch softball and fast pitch softball have many similarities: the ball must be pitched underhand, the game is 7 innings long, the purpose is to get on base and score runs. The major difference, as the names imply, is in the speed of the pitched ball. In slow pitch softball, the ball must be thrown underhand with a specific arc (3 to 12 feet) whereas in fast pitch softball the ball is thrown underhand in a straight line with great velocity - much like a baseball. Other differences are noted in the following list.
Playing Strategy
Fast Pitch softball permits most of the team strategies used in baseball. It is varied according to any given game situation and the philosophical beliefs of the coach. The winning team will be the one that not only masters individual fundamentals but that functions as a unit in the execution of team plays. In Slow Pitch softball there are no offensive plays, since a baserunner cannot leave the base until the pitched ball reaches home plate and cannot advance until the ball is hit or the batter is walked.
Slow Pitch Fast Pitch
No bunting
No stealing bases
Runners may leave the base after the ball crosses home plate
10 players per team
65-foot base paths (Males)
60-foot base paths (Females)
Recommend a mask and chest protector for the catcher
Stealing bases
Runners leave base after the pitcher releases the ball
9 players per team
60-foot base paths
Require a mask and chest protector for the catcher
The Game
The purpose of the game is to score more runs than the opponent. A regulation game consists if seven innings or six and one-half innings if the team second at bat has scored more runs than the other team has scored in five or more innings. The score of a forfeited game shall be 7-0 in favor of the team not at fault.
Players and Substitutes
A team shall consist of nine players in Fast Pitch, ten players in Fast Pitch with a designated Hitter, and ten players in Slow Pitch. A team must have the required number players to start or continue a game. A substitute may take the place of a player whose name is on the team's batting order. Any of the starting players excepr a Designated Hitter (DH) may be withdrawn and re-enter once provided such player occupies the same batting position whenever he or she is in the lineup. A player, other than the starting line-up, removed from the game shall not participate in the game again except as a coach. The DH must remain in the same position in the batting order, may not enter the game on defense, may be substituted for at any time by a player how has not yet been in the game, and may not return to the game.
A base hit results when a batted ball permits the hitter to reach first base safely when no fielding error is involved. A base hit shall not be recorded when a baserunner is forced out by a batted ball, or would have been forced, except for a fielding error.
Sacrifices are scored when with less than two out the batter advances one or more baserunners' with a bunt and is retired at first base, or when a run is scored by advacning runners after a fly ball is caught.
Assists are scored to each player who handles the ball in any play or series of plays which results in a put-out, but only one assist is credited to a player in any one put-out.
Errors are recorded for the player who commits a misplay that prolongs the turn at bat of the batter or the life of the baserunner.
Put-outs are credited to players who catch a batted fly ball, catch a thrown ball that retires a baserunner, or touch a baserunner with the ball while the runner is off the base.
A run batted in (RBI) is a run scored because of: a) a safe hit; b) a sacrifice bunt or fly; c) an infield put-out or fielder's choice; d) a baserunner forced home because of interference, or in Fast Pitch the batter being hit with a pitched ball, or the batter being given a base on balls; e) a home run and all runs scored as a result.
Winning and Losing Pitcher
A pitcher shall be credited with a win if he or she starts and pitches at least four innings and the team is not only in the lead when the replacement occurs but remains in the lead the remainder of the game. When a game is ended after five innings of play and the starting pitcher has pitched at least three innings and the team scores more runs than the other team when the game is terminated, he or she shall be declared the winner. A pitcher shall be charged with a loss regardless of the number of innings pitched if replaced when the team is behind in the score and the team thereafter fails to tie the score or gain the lead.
Playing Field
The regulation playing field is 60 X 60 feet square (Figure 19-3); note the accompanying indication of the required distances for Fast Pitch and Slow Pitch
The battler shall take a position within the lines of the battler's box and may be called out for stepping on home plate or having the entire foot touching the ground completely outside the lines of the batter's box when the ball is hit. A batter is removed from further participation in the game if an illegal bat is used. Players must bat in regular order as indicated in the starting line-up. Batting out of order is an appeal play and if the error is discovered while the incorrect batter is at the plate, the correct batter must replace the incorrect batter and assume the ball and strike count. If the error is discovered after the incorrect batter has completed the turn at bat and before there has been a pitch to another batter, the player who should have batted is out, and the next batter is the player whose name follows that of the player declared out. Any runs scored are cancelled and base runners must return must return to bases held when the incorrect batter came to the plate. If the error is not discovered until after a pitch is made to the next batter, no one is declared out and all play is legal.

A strike (Fast Pitch) occurs when the ball passes over any part of home plate and is between the batter's amrpits and the top of the knees when in a natural batting stance. In Slow Pitch the strike zone is over any part of home plate between the batter's higher shoulder and the knees when in a natural batting stance.
A foul tip is a foul ball which goes directly from the bat, not higher than the batter's head, to the catcher's hands and is legally caught. In Fast Pitch the ball is in play and baserunners may advance at their own risk. In Slow Pitch the ball is dead.
The batter shall be declared out when an infield fly is hit with baserunners on first and second or on first, second, and thrid with less than two out (in-field fly rule). The batter is also called out in Slow Pitch when the ball is bunted, is hit with a downward chopping motion, or is hit foul after the second strike.
Baserunners must touch the bases in regular order and if forced to return while the ball is in play, the bases must be touched in reverse order. Two baserunners may not occupy the same base simultaneously. The runner who first legally occupied the base shall be entitled to it and the other baserunner must return or be put out. A baserunner is out when he or she: a) runs more than three feet from a direct line between bases in regular or reverse order to avoide being touched by the ball in the hand of a fielder; b) passes a preceding baserunner before that runner has been put out; c) leaves a base to advance before a caught fly ball has been touched provided the ball is returned to a fielder who touches that base while holding the ball, or a fielder with the ball touches the baserunner before returning to the base; d) fails to keep contact with the base until a legally pitched ball has been released by the pitcher in Fast Pitch (whether on a steal or batted ball); e) fails to keep contact with the base until a legally pitched ball has reached home plate in Slow Pitch (batted ball only).
Dead Ball
The ball is dead and not in play under the following circumstances a) on an illegally batted ball; b) when the batter steps from one box to another as pitcher is ready to pitch; c) on an illegal pitch; d) when a pitched ball touches any part of the batter's person or clothing; e) when a foul ball is not caught; f) when a baserunner is called out for leaving a base too soon; g) when any part of the batter's person is hit with a batted ball while in the batter's box; h) when the batter is hit by a pitched ball; i) when a blocked ball is declared; j) when a wild pitch or passed ball in Fast Pitch goes under, over, or through the backstop; and k) in Slow Pitch after each strike or ball.
Terminology: Appeal play A play upon which an umpire cannot make a decision until a requested by a player or a coach.
Assist Fielding: credit for a player who throws or deflects a batted or thrown ball in which a put-out results, or would have resulted except for a subsequent error.
Battery: The pitcher and the catcher.
Batting average: The number of hits divided by the times at bat.
Blooper: A batted fly ball that goes just over the head of the infielders and just in front of the outfielders.
Cleanup hitter: The number four batter in the batting order, a position usually occupied by the team's heaviest hitter.
Control: The ability of a pitcher to throw the ball to a desired area when pitching.
Count: The number of balls and strikes on the batter.
Cut-off: A throw from the outfield that is intercepted by an infielder for the purpose of throwing out a runner other than the intended runner.
Double play: Two consecutive put-outs occurring between the time the ball leaves the pitcher's hand and its return to the pitcher.
Error: A misplay or mistake by the defensive team that results in prolonging the turn at bat of the batter or the time on base of the baserunner.
Fielder's choice: The batter is safe because the defensive player elected to retire a preceding baserunner.
Force out: An out as a result of a defensive player with the ball tagging a runner or the base to which the baserunner must go because the batter became a baserunner.
Fungo: bat A lightweight bat used in hitting balls to fielders during practice.
Grand slam: The batter hits a home run with the bases loaded.
Hit: A ball hit in such a way that the batter or preceding baserunners are not retired by good defensive play.
Hot corner: The third base area.
Infield fly: A fair fly ball that can be caught by an infielder with runners on first and second, or first, second, and third before two are out. The batter is declared out by the umpire.
Keytsone sack: The second base area.
On deck: The player in line to follow batter at the plate. The place for waiting is the "On-deck Circle".
Overthrow: A thrown ball that goes into foul territory lines of the playing field on an attempt to retire a runner who has not reached or is off a base.
Passed ball: A legally delivered pitch that should have been held or controlled by the cathcer, which allows a baserunner to advance. A dropped third strike that permits the batter to reach first base in Fast Pitch is an error, not a passed ball.
Put-out: An out credited to the fielder who last handles the ball on a play that retires the batter or a baserunner.
Running squeeze: A play where the runner on third base starts for home with the pitch because he knowns the batter is going to bunt the ball.
Sacrifice bunt: A play where the batter bunts the ball to advance a baserunner and is thrown out at first base, or would have been if the ball was played properly.
Sacrifice fly: A fly ball that is caught and after which a baserunner crosses home plate to score a run.
Safety squeeze: A play where the baserunner on third base starts for home after the batter bunts the ball.
Switch hitter: A batter who bats both right and left handed.
Wild pitch: A legally delivered pitch so wide or low or high that the catcher cannot stop or control the ball, which allows a baserunner to advance.
The success of winning team is greatly dependent on the consistency of the pitching. A good pitcher must have control and a variety of pitch that can be used whether it is Fast Pitch or Slow Pitch. The movements of pitching are outlined by the rules. The following types of pitches can be used in Fast Pitch: 1) Straight Pitch - fast ball. Grip the ball with palm up, hold the ball in a tripod grip (same as in the overhand throw described previously). Release the ball from the fingertips and thumb with palm up and slightly to the left; 2) Curve Ball - Grip is the same but deeper in the tripod. Release occurs between the thumb and forefinger after the wrist is roated vigorously just before the release to give side spin. When the wrist is rotated clockwise it produces a curve to the right (incurve) and when it is rotated counterclockwise it produces a curve to the left (outcurve); 3) Drop Ball Grip is palm up, thumb to the right, three fingers underneath and little finger to the side. Release occrus by a snap of the wrist upward allowing the ball to roll off the fingers giving it top spin; and 4) Rise Ball - Grip is with palm down, thumb underneath, and all fingers on top. Release occurs by a snap of the wrist up ward while the thumb pushes against the ball to put backspin on it.
In Slow Pitch the ball should be released about shoulder high, which helps to attain the twelve-foot arc and to drop the ball over the plate. Lower releases tend to flatten the pitch and give it more velocity. Varied spins as well as different speeds on the ball should be devloped to keep the batter mixed up in the timing of his swing.