Slowpitch Softball is one of the most popular recreational and competitive games in the world. It is ideal for people of all ages and abilities. It allows people to play together in mixed or single-sex teams in a social, fun environment. While in Australia fastpitch is the more popular form of Softball, in the USA slowpitch is more popular as a participant sport.
There are many variations of slowpitch, with different adaptations to suit local requirements. It can be played as a one-off game or over a competitive season that runs a number of weeks. It is played at the Special Olympics, at the World Police and Fire Games, at the World Masters Games or at the beach.
While similar to fastpitch in many ways, slowpitch has some fundamental differences, the most significant of which (as the name implies) is that the ball is pitched at a moderate speed with a noticeable arc, making it easier for the batter to hit the ball. There are also rule variations, examples of which are outlined below.
A slowpitch team consists of either 9 or 10 players (depending on version of slowpitch played) in the following positions: Pitcher, catcher, 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, shortstop, leftfield, centrefield, rightfield and short field (if using 10 players). See the following diagram for field placements.
- Softball: made of rubber, vinyl or leather, size 12"
- Bats: regular softball bat (wooden or metal) with non-slip grip covering the handle
- A glove: used by all fielders
- Batting helmets: used by all batters and base runners
- Catchers gear: a chest protector, leg guards, helmet and face mask with throat protector
- Strike zone mat: the mat, which is made of rubber or wood, is 48.18cm wide and 81.23m long, measured from the end of the mat to the tip of each side that joins the back edge of home plate (see diagram below). It is a 'strike' if a legally pitched ball hits this mat
A game lasts for 7 innings or a set period of time (eg 75 mins), whichever occurs 1st. If 7 innings are not completed within the allotted time, the game is decided on the number of runs scored by each team in an equal number of innings.
- The pitcher must have at least one (1) foot in contact with the pitchers plate until the ball is released
- The pitcher is not required to take a step when delivering the pitch. If a step is taken, it may be forward or backward
- The pitcher must pitch the ball at a moderate speed with an arc of at least 1.82m but not higher than 12ft (3.64m) above the ground at the arc’s highest point. Refer to the following diagram
- The pitcher must release the ball on the 1st forward swing of the arm past the hip
- The pitcher can chose to walk a batter* intentionally. This is done by notifying the home plate umpire who awards the batter 1st base. *The 10th batter in an inning may NOT be intentionally walked
- A strike occurs if a legally pitched ball hits the strike zone mat or the batter swings at an illegal pitch
- A ball is awarded for an illegal pitch. The ball is dead and base runners do not advance
- In mixed teams, the batting order must alternate between male and female players
- If the 10th batter rule applies, when the 10th batter in the line-up comes to bat, the umpire must notify the fielding team. Once the 10th batter has completed their turn at bat and all plays are completed, the batting side is deemed to have been retired.
- Bunting is not permitted. A batter who bunts is out
- A chopped ball is not permitted. A batter who chops a balls is out
- The ball is dead after each pitch unless the pitch is hit
- If the batter is hit by a pitched ball they are not awarded 1st base (as in fastpitch) instead they are awarded a ball
- Safety zones are used to remove sliding and tagging from slowpitch games. They are circles (1m radius) around 2nd and 3rd bases and a semi-circle (1m radius) marked on fair territory side of 1st base (see diagram 1). If a play is made on a runner, the runner must have a foot within the circle before the fielder in possession of the ball contacts the base to which the runner is advancing. If no play is made on a runner, the runner must touch the base
- Base runners must remain in contact with the base until the ball is hit.If they fail to do so, the ball is dead, a no pitch is called and the runner is out
- Base runners must have one foot on or inside the safety zone when tagging up on fly balls.
- When a baserunner over-runs 2nd and 3rd bases they may be put out by a fielder playing the base before the baserunner returns to the safety zone
- Commitment lines are marked perpendicular to the baseline, halfway between 2nd and 3rd base and 3rd base and home plate. Once a base runner’s foot touches the ground on or past this line, the runner may not go back but must continue to the next base or home plate. If they do go back they are called out
- There is no sliding in slowpitch. If a base runner slides they are called out
- Stealing bases is not permitted in slowpitch. Base runners may only progress to the next base when the ball is hit or when forced by a batter
Base runners may not advance when:
- The ball is hit in the air and caught, in fair or foul territory
- When the ball reaches 1st base before the batter
- All plays at bases in slowpitch are force plays
- A free runner is played out in exactly the same way as a forced runner
- There is no tagging in slowpitch Softball. If a base runner is tagged they are awarded the base to which they are running
- The catcher must return the ball directly to the pitcher except after a strikeout by the catcher. This rule applies with or without runners on base. Failure to do so results in the batter being awarded an additional ball
In addition to the normal rules, the batter is out when:
- When the ball is bunted or chopped downward
- On the 3rd strike
- When the ball is batted foul on the 3rd strike, whether or not the ball is caught
- When the batter touches home platewhile trying to hit the pitch
The team retires when 3 outs have been achieved or, if playing the 10th batter rule, when the 10th batter has completed their return at bat.
A 2.4m scoring line extends 0.6m from the corner of home plate closest to 3rd base into foul territory at a 90 degree angle to the 3rd base line (see diagram 2). A run is scored if a foot is on or before the scoring line or down on the home plate. Running beyond the end of the scoring line is the equivalent of not touching home plate.
A number of Associations and Clubs run slowpitch competitions, including:
- Melbourne Softball Association (Vic) which offers recreational twilight mixed slowpitch on weekday evenings from November to March, and Sunday morning social Softball for mixed teams from May to August
- Dalby PCYC and Greenbank Sport and Recreation Club (Qld), which offers recreational twilight mixed slowpitch on weekday evenings during the softball season
- North Tasmania Softball Association, which offers recreational twilight mixed slowpitch on weekday evenings during the Softball season
- South Tasmania Softball Association, which offers recreational twilight mixed slowpitch on weekday evenings during the Softball season
- Waverley Softball Association (Vic) offers recreational twilight mixed slowpitch on weekday evenings during the Softball season
Updated 29 June 2012