Softball is a team sport in direct relation to the sport of baseball. It is hugely popular across the United States. There are two major differences between softball and baseball; in softball, the ball is pitched underhand, and in baseball, the ball is pitched overhand; and secondly, the ball used for softball is much larger than the ball used for baseball.
Fast-pitch Softball and Slow-pitch Softball
Although the rules and playing conditions for both these variants are almost identical, there are a few differences between fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball. The first and most prominent among them being the fact that fast-pitch softball is similar to baseball in many ways, and the strategies and techniques applied in it are more or less along the lines of regular baseball. Slow-pitch softball is the more popular of the two, as its rules are relatively simpler, which makes it an ideal choice even for the rookies out there. As opposed to both baseball and fast-pitch softball, slow-pitch softball employs underhanded pitching of the ball and also needs a smaller playing area. All these together make soft-pitch softball the most played team sport in the United States.
Rules and Regulations
Softball rules and positions are very easy to understand. The game of softball is very similar to the game of baseball, hence there are a lot of similarities between softball and baseball rules.
Field of Play
- Similar to baseball, there are 9 players in each team. This number can actually vary between 9 and 12 (depending on the level of the league that the game is being played in), but in most cases there will be only 9 players on each side.
- The field of play is divided into two main parts – the infield and the outfield.
- The pitcher is required to pitch the ball from the pitcher’s mound which is located at the center of the diamond. (inside the infield area)
- When both teams have finished batting, it is known as an inning. In an official game there are a total of 7 innings.
- There are 4 bases, and the distance between each base is 60 feet. These 4 bases are diamond-shaped and the area between the bases is known as the infield. The area outside the diamond area is the outfield area.
Rules of Batting
- The order in which the batters have been placed initially is the order in which they must bat throughout the 7 innings of the game.
- A batter will be out if there are 3 strikes against him. A pitch is counted as a strike if the batter misses the ball completely and the catcher positioned behind the batter catches the ball.
- A batter will also be deemed out if a high ball hit by him is caught by a player from the fielding team before it touches the ground (this is known as a fly ball).
Rules of Pitching
- Unlike baseball, the ball has to be pitched underhand in the sport of softball.
- Before pitching the ball, both the pitcher’s hands must be on the ball.
- The pitcher must keep both his feet firmly planted on the pitcher’s plate, and while pitching the ball, he must take one step forward.
- Each base must be touched by a base runner in the correct order.
- A base runner cannot pass another base runner who is in front of him. He must stay at least one base behind him at all times.
- The runner has to be on a base until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. Leading off the bases is not permitted under any circumstances.
- Interference in play is when a player of either team intentionally obstructs the path of either the runner as he tries to get to a base or that of an opposing team player as he tries to gather the ball or effect an out.
- If the fault is of the batter or baserunner, the guilty player is declared out and the other runners need to return to their previous bases.
- In case the obstruction was caused by a defending team player, the opposing team player gets to reach the base that he would otherwise have covered without the obstruction.
As mentioned earlier, there are 9 players on each side in the sport of softball. These rules and positions are very similar to those of baseball. The following is a list of the positions occupied by players in the sport of softball.
The pitcher throws the softball from the pitcher’s mound to the catcher. The pitcher’s mound is located in the center of the diamond in the infield area. All the pitches made by the pitcher must be underhand throws.
He stands behind the batter and attempts to catch the balls thrown to him by the pitcher. He also attempts to catch the throws made by the fielders in order to get the base runner running towards the home plate out.
Outfielders (Left, Right, and Center)
These are players positioned on the outfield area, that is outside the diamond area. Their job is to catch fly balls, ground balls and line drives.
The shortstop is positioned between the second base and the third base. This players primary job is to field any balls that fall in this area.
This player is positioned just beside first base and is assigned the task of fielding any balls that come in that area.
This player covers second base and is required to field any balls that come in that area.
This player is positioned just to the left of third base and covers that area. The job of basemen is to cover their bases and catch throws made by fielders to their assigned base, in order to get the base runners out.
Common Softball Terms
Any ball that is pitched outside the strike zone is called ball. When the pitcher pitches ‘ball’ four times, the batter get to move on to first base.
A batter who reaches a base safely is called a base runner.
When all the bases are occupied by runners, it’s called bases loaded.
The warmup area, usually just by the side of the playing area is called the bullpen.
The area just by the side of the playing field, where the players from the offense team wait for their turn is called the dugout.
When the ball is no longer in play, it is called dead ball.
The playing area of a softball field, as it is shaped like a diamond goes by this name.
Foul ball is called if the ball is hit into the foul territory on either side of the batter.
When the ball is hit out of the legal playing area, it is called a home run. The hit counts as one run.
The batting team or any of its players are called offense.
This is the umpire’s call or commencing or resuming the game.
When a base runner make it to a base without getting out, he is ‘safe’.
When the batter misses the three balls in a row pitched within the strike zone, he ‘strikes out’.
Softball is a sport that is played by a large number of people across the United States. It was also an Olympic sport for women, but was dropped from the Olympic games in 1996. Over the years, softball has risen from being just a sport to a way of life for scores of Americans and people all over the globe. The relatively simple gameplay also makes it a favorite amongst kids looking to take up a new sport.