this sport life


< back to the list of sports


Pitching and batting Players
Strikes Size differences
Players out Glossary
Types of pitch

The softball field

The softball field


History of the game

Objective: Softball is played by two teams of nine or ten players. The object of the game is to hit the ball and score runs by running around the four bases in turn.

Softball as a game is essentially very similar to Baseball, and to a lesser extent, Rounders. The playing area is smaller for softball, and the ball is bigger and heavier than for baseball,and it must always be pitched underarm. Softball can be played indoors or outdoors, with nine players on a fast-pitch team, ten players on a slow-pitch team.

The pitcher will throw the ball to the batter, who will try and hit the ball as hard and as far as they can. If the batter hits the ball, they will try and run around the field, touching at each of the bases. When the batter has run around all four bases, this is a run. A player may run around in one go, or may run from base to base. If the batter gets around on one hit of the ball, this is called a home run (sometimes called a homer).

A game of softball consists of seven innings. An innings ends when three players on the batting team are out. The team which has scored most runs at the end of the seven innings wins.


Softball may be played as fast pitch or slow pitch.

Nine players. Players already on bases can steal bases, meaning that while the ball is in play, they can run onto another base. The players on bases may only run when the ball reaches the home plate or has been hit. If the ball is not hit, all players must return to their bases. If a runner does not remain in contact with the base, they will be out.

Ten players. Stealing bases is not allowed in slow-pitch softball. The fielding team must assume every batter is going to hit the ball. The ball is pitched in an arc between 1.8 and 3.6 metres (6-12 feet) high. This makes for a slow delivery.

Pitching and batting

Most runs are scored by players running from base to base, although if the player runs all the way around the bases to the home base (fourth base, home plate), they have scored a home run, also called a homer.

When a player runs after hitting the ball, all players on bases advance.

The pitcher (the player on the defensive team who throws the ball to the batter) has to observe certain rules when pitching. The ball must be pitched into the strike zone.

Fast pitch
The strike zone is the area between the batter's knees and armpits. The ball must go into this area to give the batter a fair chance of hitting it. This is the same as baseball.

Slow pitch
The strike zone is the area between the top of the batter's knees and highest part of the shoulder when in batting stance. The ball must go into this area to give the batter a fair chance of hitting it.

Pitching rules
A batter may pitch up to three balls. If the fourth pitch is also a ball, the batter may proceed to first base without hitting it. This is called a walk. If there are other players on bases, they also advance. In this case there is no chance of any of them being put out.


The batter also has a set number of chances. These are called strikes. If a legal ball is pitched, and one of the following happens, that is a strike. The batter does not have to try and hit every ball (they may allow a strike against them). A batter may have two strikes against them. On the third, they are out.

- the batter swings at the pitch and misses

- the ball goes into the strike zone whether the batter tries to hit it or not

- the ball touches the batter as they swing

- the ball touches the batter within the strike zone

- the batter plays a foul tip, where the ball is hit into the hands of the catcher

- a bunted ball is played into foul territory

- the ball is played into foul territory

Note that if the ball is played (not bunted) into foul territory, the player is not out if they have already had two strikes against them.

If the batter successfully hits the ball into fair territory, they drop the bat and run to first base, and further if they can. The fielders on the bases will try and retrieve the ball and make contact with the base before the runner (who was the batter) gets there. If the fielder succeeds, the runner is out, otherwise, the runner can occupy that base.

Runners on bases do not have to wait for the pitch to be made before they run. They can try to get to the next base anyway. This is called a steal. Obviously if they are seen doing this and the fielders are quick enough to tag them or the base, they are out.

The defensive team can put out more than one player from one play. If a fielder makes a tag and throws the ball to another fielder in time for them to make a tag also, then it would be called a double play or triple play depending on whether two or three players are put out in one go.

Players out

There are several ways a player can be out in softball.

- Three strikes against them

- if they hit a ball into the air (a fly ball) and it is caught by a fielder, whether the ball is in fair or foul territory

- a runner can be tagged (if the fielder touches the runner with the ball or with the hand or glove holding the ball), or the base they are running to can be tagged. The base must be tagged by a fielder. If the ball simply hits the base, it does not count

- the batter must have both feet within the batter's box when the ball is hit

- the batter hits an infield fly

The infield fly rule
An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two players are out.

The umpire would call 'infield fly' to notify the players. The batter who hit it would then be out, regardless of whether the ball was caught or not.

When a batter hits the ball, they have to run for base. If the catcher deliberately dropped the ball, the batter would have to run, and so would the players on the other bases. This would give the fielding team the possibility of a double play or triple play.

Rules for strikes
A player is not out after three strikes if the catcher does not catch the ball after the third strike only if:

- the first base is unoccupied

- the first base is occupied, with two players out on the batting team

Rules for bases
If a runner leaves their base when a ball has been hit which becomes a foul ball, they must return to their original base. They cannot be put out.

When batting, the bat should be held over the home base.

If a runner leaves their base when a fly ball has been caught, they must return to their original base. They can be put out when returning.

If a runner tries to steal a base, the fielder must tag the runner, not the base, to get them out.

When running between bases, runners must run close to the lines within a distance of 0.9 metres (3 feet), unless they are running around a fielder.

If the base is moved, the runner must aim for the original position of the base. A fielder cannot put a player out by tagging the base in its new position.

When a batter hits the ball, all runners advance and if there are runs scored, the runs are credited to the player who hit the ball, aswell as the player who has made it all the way around, although each run scored counts as one.

Fair and foul balls
If a player hits a ball into foul territory, this counts as a strike. Unless that player has already had two strikes called against them, in which case it would not be a strike. If the player bunts the ball into foul territory, even if two strikes have been called, it counts as a strike.

Q: If a fly ball is hit into fair territory and it hits the ground and then goes out into foul territory, is it a fair or a foul ball?
A: If the ball lands on the ground between home and first, or home and third base, and then goes into foul territory in front of first or third base, without hitting a fielder or an umpire, it is a foul ball. If it first lands on or beyond first or third base in fair territory, then goes into foul territory, it is a fair hit.

Types of pitch

Bean ball
An illegal pitch, aimed straight at the batter's head.

Change up
The pitcher throws a slow ball with the same action as a fast ball

At the moment of releasing the ball, the pitcher twists the wrist, so it flies towards the pitcher from right to left for a right-handed batter, left to right for a left-handed batter, and dips just before reaching the batter.

The ball is pitched in a fast straight line, and usually travel slightly downwards, as the home plate is slightly lower than the pitching mound.

This pitch does not spin in flight, but it turns as the air picks up on the seams of the ball. It will usually slide as it reaches the batter.

Quick return pitch
An illegal pitch, where the pitcher throws the ball to the batter as soon as it is recieved from the catcher.

The opposite of a curveball. It curves from left to right for a right-handed batter, and from right to left for a left-handed batter.

The ball is pitched similarly to the curveball, and looks to the batter like a fastball, but that it slows and dips as it reaches the batter.

Split-fingered fastball
Similar to the fastball, but held slightly differently. It travels fast towards the batter, and dips sharply on reaching the home plate.

Pitching rules
An illegal act by the pitcher is called a balk. If a balk is called, all runners advance one base. If there are no runners on bases, a ball is called. These are pitching offences.

- the back foot of the pitcher must be on the pitcher's plate (also called the rubber) when they pitch.

- the pitcher must also face any base they are throwing to.

- the ball hits the batter outside the strike zone.

- an illegal pitch, like a bean ball or a quick return pitch.

- pitches a spitball, a ball with dirt or any other substance on it to alter its flight.

A relief pitcher (pitcher who replaces the original pitcher in a game) is allowed up to eight warm-up pitches when first at the (pitching) mound.

It is worth noting that batting players play in rotation. If the innings ends with player 4 being put out, that team restart batting with player 5. Defensive players are divided into two categories, infielders, and outfielders.


1 - Pitcher
Delivers the ball to the batters.

2 - Catcher
Catches strike balls, and advises pitcher what type of pitch to use, by making hand signals as the pitcher is preparing to throw the ball.

3 - First base
Has the most balls thrown to them than any other base player, and tags out runners from the home plate.

4 - Second base
Stands nearer to first base than third, because the shortstop covers the area between second and third base.

5 - Third base
Throws the ball to either the pitcher or other base players, and tags players out generally less than the other bases.

6 - Shortstop
Retrieves a lot of balls, tags runners, and throws to base players.

7 - Left fielder
Has to be quick at getting balls, and returning them to base players.

8 - Centre fielder
Has to be quick at getting balls, and returning them to base players.

9 - Right fielder
Has to be quick at getting balls, and returning them to base players.

Slow pitch only

10 - Shortfielder
An extra shortstop.

Size differences

The main differences in softball from baseball is firstly that the ball is always pitched underarm, and the ball must be visible to the batter at all times. The shape of the playing area is the same as for baseball, although it is smaller for softball.

The distance between bases is shorter, over 27 metres (90 feet) for baseball, the following distances apply for softball.

Fast pitch (male) - 18.29 metres (60 feet)
Fast pitch (female) - 18.29 metres (60 feet)
Slow pitch (male) - 19.81 metres (65 feet)
Slow pitch (female) - 18.29 metres (60 feet)

Softball (especially slow pitch) can also be played in mixed teams.

The ball
The ball is larger and heavier than is baseball. It is 30.1 to 30.6 centimetres around (11 to 12 inches) and it weighs 177.2 to 198.5 grammes (6 to 7 ounces).

The bat
The softball bat is shorter than the baseball bat. it is no longer than 86.36 centimetres (34 inches) with a maximum diameter of 5.72 centimetres (2 and a quarter inches) at the thickest part.

The maximum weight allowed is 1.07 kilograms (38 ounces), and the grip around the handle should be no more than 38.1 centimetres (15 inches).


Base on balls - when a batter recieved four balls and is entitled to an automatic walk to first base

Bottom of the 1st, 2nd... the second half of the innings

Breaking ball - when the ball changes direction in the air

Batting average - the number of hits divided by number of times a player has batted. It is always calculated to three decimal places (for example .123)

Bunt - the ball is tapped gently into the infield

Designated hitter - where a player bats instead of the pitcher, and does not field

Double - when a batter reaches second base from one hit

Double header - two scheduled matches played one after the other

Earned run average - the number of runs scored compared to how many innings a pitcher has pitched for

Error - when a fielder makes a mistake that would normally have put a runner out

Fake - a pitcher pretends to pitch but turns to try and stop a runner from stealing base

Force play - when a batter becomes a runner, so all runners are forced to advance

Grand slam - when a batter scores a home run with a player on each base, scoring four runs in one go

Ground ball - a batted ball that travels along or close to the ground

Line drive - a ball hit hard in a straight line

Loaded base - when a base is occupied

No hitter - when the pitcher has not given any runs away

Pinch hitter - substitute batter

RBI - runs batted in, where players are credited with runs scored as a result of their hit, whether they run or other players do. All players concerned are credited with runs

Retouch - when a batter returns to base

Run down - when the defensive team puts out a runner between bases, also called 'caught in the hot box'

Safe - an umpire call when a runner has made a base

Single - when a batter reaches first base from one hit

Squeeze play - when a team has a runner on third base they can score that runner by the batter playing a bunt

Switch hitter - when a batter can hit the ball using either hand

Tie game - a game that is level after the ordinary number of innings

Top of the 1st, 2nd... the first half of an innings

Triple - when a batter reaches third base from one hit

Wild pitch - a pitch too high, low or wide for the catcher to catch

- - -

back to list of sports


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Original Source