The Amateur Softball Association is the national governing body of softball in the United States. The organization’s objectives include promoting safety and establishing uniform softball rules and regulations. They set the playing rules for fastpitch and slow pitch softball in professional leagues, collegiate competition and adult and youth recreational play.
A softball field consists of the dirt infield, which contains the pitching circle and the diamond of bases, and a grassy outfield. In fastpitch softball, the distance between the pitching plate and home plate is 43 feet for women and 46 feet for men and the bases are 60 feet apart. The minimum distance from home plate to the fence is 200 feet for women and 225 feet for men, while the maximum fence distance is 250 feet for both sexes. In slow pitch softball, the distance between the pitching and home plates is 50 feet for both women and men and bases are 65 feet apart. The respective minimum and maximum distances from home plate to the fence are 265 and 275 feet for women, 300 and 315 feet for men, and 275 and 300 feet for coed play.
A regulation softball game consists of seven innings and the designated home team bats last in every inning. Teams continue on offense until the defensive team records three outs by striking out a batter, catching a fly ball, tagging a runner with the ball when she is not on a base or getting a force out by touching a base with the ball in hand before an advancing runner. If a game is tied at the end of seven innings, the teams continue play until one team has scored more runs than the other at the end of a complete inning. A run is scored whenever an offensive runner makes it all the way around the diamond, from first to second to third base and then to home plate.
The batting order, which consists of a sequential list of nine batters, is delivered to the umpire before a game and has to be followed throughout the game unless a player is substituted. Bats must be no more than 34 inches long or 38 ounces in weight and must be marked with “Official Softball” by the manufacturer. When a player is up to bat, she must have both feet completely inside the batter’s box. The batter is given three strikes before she is considered out. If she receives four balls, she is allowed to advance to first base. As soon as the batter legally hits a fair ball, she is considered a runner and runs to first base. If the batter hits a foul ball, she receives a strike call, but a foul ball cannot lead to a third strike.
Before pitching, a pitcher has to place both feet on the pitching plate with her shoulders in line with first and third bases. When receiving a signal from the catcher, the pitcher must keep her hands separated with the ball in either the glove or the free hand. The hands then must come together for one to 10 seconds. Once the pitcher separates her hands again, the pitch officially starts. Once the pitch has started, the pitcher must continue her motion and cannot stop or reverse movement. The pitcher must take one step forward with her non-pivot foot use an underhand motion and release the ball with the hand below the hips.
Base Running Rules
Base runners must touch each base in order as they advance around the diamond. Runners must remain within the three-foot base path, unless they are attempting to avoid a fielder who is fielding a ball. A runner is allowed to leave a base as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand on delivery and attempt to steal to the next base with the risk of being put out.