What is Fastpitch Softball?

What is "softball"?

"Indoor Baseball" was a variant of baseball invented in 1887 using a smaller infield diamond and a "softer" ball to accommodate playing indoors. One of its early nicknames was "ladies' baseball" as women participated in the sport. In the 1920's the game gained the moniker "softball" due to the softer balls used at that time. The rules were modified over time to what we have today.

What is Fastpitch Softball?

There are three variants of softball played today- Fastpitch, Slow-pitch and Modified or Orthodox Softball. Each variant is defined by their rules for how the pitcher may deliver an underhand pitch to the batter. KNLL supports girls' fastpitch where pitchers use a "windmill" style of pitching motion to pitch the ball underhand as fast as they can. This is the same style played by US high schools, the NCAA, National Pro Fastpitch, and the upcoming 2020 Olympics.

Are softballs used today "soft"?

No. Softballs and baseballs are measured for Compression- the pounds of force it takes to compress two sides of the ball by ¼". The average baseball (Little League through MLB) is rated at 265 psi whereas the standard softball used at Coast Division through High School is rated at 375 psi which has less "give" than a baseball.

At Tee Ball, A, and AAA, our league uses "safety softballs" with a compression rating of 275-300 psi and a slight cushion around the outer edge of the ball. These softballs have noticeably more give as you can press in on them with your fingers. While they feel softer than baseballs, they still hurt when you get hit by them due to their mass. That give does slow the velocity at which the ball leaves that bat making it safer for players in the field.

What is the size of a softball?

Unlike baseball where the same sized ball is used from Tee Ball to Major League Baseball (between 9"-9.25" in circumference), softballs come in different sizes in order to accommodate the small hands of young players. In our league we use the following sizes:

Tee Ball and A: 10" Safety Softball
AAA: 11" Safety Softball
Coast: 11" 375 psi Softball
Majors and Juniors: 12" 375 psi Softball

At Majors and Juniors, players use the same sized softball as used in High School and the NCAA.

What is the difference in weight between softballs and baseball?

Softballs used by our league are heavier than baseballs.

Baseball: 5- 5.25 oz
10" Softball: 5.2- 5.3 oz
11" Softball: 5.9- 6.1 oz
12" Softball: 6.25- 7 oz

Which has more bounce, a baseball or a softball?

The Coefficient of Restitution (COR) used in Little League softballs (.470) is lower than that of Little League baseballs (.555). The COR represents the percentage of velocity that is retained when the ball is fired against an immovable surface such as a steel plate. Given the above COR examples, if each were thrown at 50 mph, the softball would rebound at a speed of 23.5 mph and the baseball at 27.75 mph. A golf ball with a COR of .801 would rebound at a speed of 40 mph.

Which travels farther, a baseball or a softball?

Typically, baseball home runs travel farther than softball homeruns. Compression, ball weight, ball size, bat specifications, and bat speed all play a factor into the equation making a direct comparison challenging as the conditions are not directly comparable. But just like there are 12-year old players in our league who can hit a baseball over 200', the same is true in softball as well.

Does a softball have more force at impact than a baseball due to weight?

Yes. A baseball thrown at 95 mph from 60' 6" will generate over 2400 pounds of force. A 12" softball, thrown from 43' at a comparable, relative speed is higher due to the mass, impact area, and Compression of the ball.

Is it easier to hit a softball than a baseball due to the size of the ball?

Albert Pujols didn't think so! The release angle, spin, and trajectory of a softball released by the pitcher is vastly different than that of a baseball by a baseball pitcher. This makes it difficult for even the best baseball players to hit a softball delivered from an elite fastpitch softball pitcher.

What are the main differences between baseball and fastpitch softball?

  1. Pitching mechanics
  2. Field dimensions
  3. Running slap hits
  4. The importance of speed

What is different about the pitching mechanics?

Like baseball, fastpitch softball pitchers use a pitching plate (pitching rubber) from where they must start their pitching motion. In both pitching motions, arm whip is an important factor for generating speed. In fastpitch softball, the ball is pitched "underhand" with the wrist and forearm "whipping" at the pitcher's back hip. This pitching motion is much less stressful on the rotator cuff and ulnar collateral ligament dramatically reducing the incidence of injury and increasing the amount of pitches that players can throw in a day or a week.

Why do softball pitchers pitch underhand?

As mentioned at the beginning of this FAQ, softball was derived from baseball back in 1887. When professional baseball was started in 1869, pitchers were required to pitch underhand. The National League did not lift the ban on overhand pitching until 1884, with the American League following suit in 1885. When softball was first created, the norm had been for pitchers to pitch underhand.

Do pitchers pitch from a mound?

No. The entire infield is flat including the area around the pitcher's plate. An 8' radius chalk circle is drawn around the center of the pitcher's plate. When the pitcher has the ball within the pitching circle, base running options are limited.

What is the pitch count for softball pitchers?

Softball pitchers do not have a pitch count, they have an inning count. According to Little League rules, players as young as 8-years old, may pitch up to 12 innings in a day. If they pitch more than 7 innings in a day, they must then rest the following day before they can pitch again.

In our league, players start to pitch in AAA and we limit them to 2 innings per game. At Coast, we typically adopt interleague rules that pitchers may only pitch 3 innings per game so that teams must develop multiple pitchers. At Majors and above, pitchers follow the Little League Official Rules cited above.

Is the pitching velocity of a softball slower than a baseball?

Top NCAA pitchers can pitch softballs in the low 70's. Top MLB pitchers can throw over 100 mph. However, because the pitching plate in softball is so much closer (43' vs 60' 6"), a 70 mph softball arrives to the batter faster (.35 seconds) than a 100 mph baseball (.38 seconds)

What is the difference in infield dimensions?

The professional softball infield is less than half the area of an MLB infield (7200 sq ft vs. 16,700 sq ft). Softball bases are 60' apart starting at Division A (6-years old) and remain that distance through NCAA, Olympics, and professional leagues. In Little League, the base distances are the same for baseball and softball through the age of 12 but baseball expands at Intermediate (70') and again at Juniors (90') while softball remains the same. To put it in perspective, a 6-year old softball player must run the same distance to first base as a 24-year old professional softball player.

What is the difference in pitching distance?

The pitching plate is 35' from the back point of home plate to the front of the pitcher's plate for players 10 and under (Coast), 40' for players 11 and 12 (Majors), and 43' for players 13 through NCAA and professional leagues. Little League Baseball uses a pitching distance of 46' up to 12-years old, 50' for Intermediate, and 60.5' for Juniors and above- the same as MLB.

What is the outfield fence distance?

Little League recommends a softball outfield fence to be a smooth arc that is 180-225' from home plate. NCAA recommends a smooth arc from 190-220' with a maximum of 235' from home plate. Professional softball stadiums are typically the same size as NCAA stadiums. While the fence heights are higher for college and pro players, the distances to the fences are typically the same for 12-year old players and above. Little League recommends a baseball outfield fence to be a minimum of 200' from home plate.

What is the size of the batter's box?

The batter's box is 3' wide by 7' long with the front edge being 4' in front of the center line of home plate. That is 1' longer than the batter's box for baseball with the extra distance placed in front of home plate to enable running slap hits.

What is a running slap hit?

In softball, batters are allowed to start their stance back in the batter's box and take steps running towards the pitcher before they hit the ball. This is why the batter's box in softball is 1' longer than in baseball. If the player hits the ball, both feet must be inside the batter's box at the time of contact or the batter is called out, just like in baseball. While players can attempt running slap hits from both sides of the plate, it is typically more advantageous to do so as a left-handed hitter. The ball is typically hit to the opposite field so that the player can beat out the throw for an infield hit.

Why is speed so important in softball?

Because the base paths are only 60', speed is important on both offense and defense.

On offense, with running slap hits and bunts, fast players are able to beat out infield hits more easily than in baseball.

On defense, because it is easier to create infield hits, fielders must play closer to home plate and therefore have fast reaction times, be ready to charge the ball, and have optimal footwork and ball transfers to get players out at first base.