More than 300 colleges and universities participate in competitive softball. Schools are divided between three different divisions. Division I is the foremost division. Division II and Division III are for smaller schools with limited resources. All three divisions follow the same set of rules. These rules are administered by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Teams that violate NCAA rules are subject to penalties, including forfeiture of games and sanctioning.
Field of Play
The NCAA official softball rulebook for 2010 sets several requirements for the field. The distance between bases is 60 feet. The square bases for first, second and third are 15 square inches with a thickness of 1 ½ to 3 ½ inches. The required backstop must be at least 25 feet but no more than 30 feet from home plate. The rules highly recommend at least one bullpen for each team. The catcher’s box is 7 feet in length and 8 feet, 5 inches wide. Dugouts must hold 25 people. The outfield fence can be no more than 235 feet from home plate. Foul lines, the pitcher’s circle and the dead ball area must be marked.
The ball must have a minimum circumference of 11 7/8 inches and a maximum circumference of 12 ¼ inches with a weight of at least 6 ½ oz. up to a maximum of 7 oz. The home team is responsible for providing at least five game balls. Bats can be composed of metal, plastic, graphite, carbon, magnesium, fiberglass, ceramics, titanium or a composite material. They must be marked “Official Softball” by the bat’s manufacturer. Bats can be no longer than 34 inches and no heavier than 38 oz. Bats can be no more than 2 ¼ inches in diameter at their largest point. The bat handle must include a safety knob of at least ¼ inch.
Rules of Play
Each team plays with nine players on the field with a maximum roster of 20 players. A 10th player is allowed to serve as a designated player. This player replaces another player on defense or at bat and can be used to replace any of the other nine players on defense. Games are seven innings, but can end after five innings if one team is winning by eight or more runs. Games that are tied after seven innings lead to extra innings. A tiebreaker rule allows each team to place the ninth batter in the order on second base to start the inning. The tiebreaker rule begins with a predetermined inning. NCAA rules recommend using the rule beginning in the 10th inning. A complete game requires five innings to be completed. A game stopped before five innings does not count as a win or loss for either team.