If you grew up playing baseball it might surprise you that the rules of slo-pitch softball are somewhat different.
The Basics: Softball Rules
Depending on whether you are playing slo-pitch or fastpitch there will be some major differences.
In softball (fastpitch or slo-pitch) the field of play is smaller than you would see in baseball. This is mostly due to the size of the ball. At 12″ the ball is simply harder to hit a long ways and it’s also more difficult to throw a softball with velocity. For this reason the base paths are closer as well.
Fastpitch Versus Slo-Pitch
Slo-pitch is designed to be a more recreational sport than fast-pitch. It allows players of skill levels to compete on co-ed teams without making it so challenging that it simply isn’t fun for some players.
Pitching and the Strike Zone: Slopitch
One of the main differences between slo-pitch and fastpitch is how the ball is delivered. As the name suggests, slo-pitch requires the pitcher to deliver the ball slowly. The ball must be delivered in an arc between 6′-12′.
Slopitch makes use of a home plate, or “the mat”. The Softball Strike Zone Mat is a large 18′ X 26′ rubber surface which the ball must hit in order for it to be deemed a strike. It should be noted, if the ball is thrown in a manner that it exceed 12′ or fails to reach 6′ at any point in it’s arc it’s also a ball.
Good pitcher’s will pitch the ball with excessive spin making it more difficult to hit.
Pitching and the Strike Zone: Fastpitch
In fastpitch the strike zone is between the arm pit and the knees. A pitcher will use a windmill motion to deliver the ball with as much velocity as he/she can. However, the pitcher is only allowed to perform one and a half windmills prior to releasing the ball.
Fastpitch and Slopitch: Strike Outs
Fastpitch handles strikes and balls the same way that baseball does. Three strikes and you’re out, four balls and you’ve been walked. If you foul a ball off with two strikes you’re not out, unless of course you attempted to bunt.
However, in slo-pitch if you foul a ball off with two strikes you are out.
Fielders & Base Runners
There are a few nuances in slopitch that don’t apply to fastpitch. The first is that you cannot steal a base in slo-pitch. Your foot must remain on the bag until contact with the ball is made.
Another major difference is you play with 10 fielders in slo-pitch. The additional fielding position is referred to as a rover. Depending on whether the batter is left-handed or right-handed the rover will generally play between the center fielder and the right (left) fielder. The idea is that most batters pull the ball to generate power. If you’re a left handed batter chances are you want to hit to ball to right field to generate maximum torque through your mid section. The downside of this is usually there will be an additional defender on that side of the field.
Legal Softball Bats
Depending on which rules you’re following (USSSA or ASA) different bats will be permissible in fastpitch and slopitch. Make sure you check which league rules your league follows and that your bat is approved.
Shaved bats, end loaded and rolled bats aren’t generally allowed in either league (some manufacturers will roll bats to certain specifications which are tolerable).
If you’re looking for a team softball bat or a power bat that’s approved by the USSSA or ASA check out our reviews.
If you’re looking for the full rule book