The Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA) organizes teams and tournaments, and provides uniform rules for the game of softball nationwide. The game was in disarray until the formation of the organization. Basic rules, distance between bases, and field structure were all different depending upon the region of the country where the sport was played. The ASA was recognized in 1934 as the official governing body for the sport, giving the sport a stable base for nationwide growth.
According to the ASA Official Rules of Softball, there are nine players on a fastpitch softball team. These players are the first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, catcher, pitcher, right fielder, center fielder, and left fielder. The coach may substitute any player at any time the ball is not in play, and must immediately notify the umpire and the scorekeeper of the substitution. After being substituted, a player may re-enter play only once again during the game.
The regulation softball used in fastpitch softball is 12 inches in circumference. This ball is hit by players with a bat, no more than 34 inches long and 2.25 inches in diameter. A certified bat will have a mark stating it conforms to ASA standards. Gloves may be worn by any player in the field, subject to size specifications in Rule 3. Catchers must wear helmets, facemasks and throat protectors. All offensive players must wear an approved batting helmet.
Rule 2 specifies the dimensions of the playing field. For adult fastpitch, the bases are placed in a diamond 60 feet apart, with the pitcher’s mound 43 feet away from home plate for women, 46 feet for men. The outer fence provides the boundary for the outfield and must be at least 200 feet, and at most 250 feet, from home plate. Rule 2 also specifies the dimensions for the batter’s and catcher’s boxes, home plate, and each base.
Fastpitch softball is played similarly to baseball. The ball is delivered underhanded using a windmill motion. Once the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, a runner may attempt to “steal” the next base. If a runner must advance to the next base to make room for the runner behind them, this is a force play, and the runner will be out if a fielder tags that base with the ball. If not on a force play, the runner must be tagged with the ball before she reaches the base. A run is scored when a player rounds all the bases, touching first, second, third and home plate.
A regulation games lasts seven innings, with each team getting one chance at bat per inning. A team’s time at bat ends when three batters or runners are put out by the fielding team. At the end of seven innings, the team with the most runs is declared the winner. If the game is tied, extra innings are played until one team has more runs than the other. In national tournaments, the game ends if a team is ahead by 15 runs after three innings, or by 8 runs after five innings.