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Softball 101
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The Basics
Softball players advance around bases by batting and running in an effort to score. Points, called runs, are scored when a player on the batting team touches all the bases (including home plate) without being tagged “out” by a player in the field. The team scoring the greater number of runs in the allotted number of innings wins the game.
What’s Needed?
Softball gloves, a softball (made of rubber and cork), softball bat (made of aluminum), cleats, matching uniforms, and batting helmets. For the catcher, a face mask, chest protector, and shin guards are also needed.
How Long Does A Game Last?
A fast pitch softball game is generally seven innings long. Each inning is divided into two halves: a top and a bottom. Usually, to start a game, a coin is tossed to decide which side will bat first. Both teams are allowed three outs per half inning. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, extra innings are played until one team outscores the other. The team batting in the bottom half of the inning, if trailing, always gets a final at bat.
Swing Batter!
Batting takes place at home plate in a “batter’s box.” The batter stands at the plate and swings her bat in an attempt to hit the pitched ball into fair play. Batters must swing at the ball when it is pitched in the strike zone or else it may be called a “strike.” When a batter hits a fair ball, she becomes a base runner and sprints to first base.
Base Hit
Occurs when a batting player hits the ball in fair play and is able to “safely” reach a base. It is called a single if the batter reaches first base; a double if the batter makes it to second; a triple if she gets to third; and a “home run” if the batter crosses home plate.
Home Run (“Homer” or “Four Bagger”)
When a batter hits a fair ball far enough to reach all four bases without being tagged out. In some softball parks, a fence encloses the outfield. It is an automatic home run when the ball is hit over this fence on the fly. A home run scores one run for the batter and a run for each player on base at the time of the hit.
Fair Ball
A batted ball that is hit within the foul lines.
Foul Ball
A batted ball that lands outside fair territory or touches fair ground, but rolls out-of-bounds before reaching first or third base. A foul ball counts as a strike, unless there are already two strikes; in this case, the player continues to bat.
Strike
Called when a player swings and misses a pitch; swings and fouls off a pitch; or does not swing when a pitch is in the strike zone. A batter strikes out when they get three strikes in one turn at bat (so long as the third strike is caught by the catcher); “foul tip” a third strike that is caught by the catcher; or “bunt” the ball foul when there are two strikes.
Ball
Called by the umpire when the batter does not swing at a pitch that is outside the strike zone.
You’re Out!
The objective for teams playing in the field is to get three players on the batting team out in each inning. A batter is out when he or she 1) hits a softball fair or foul, that is caught by a fielder before it touches the ground, 2) is tagged or first base is touched by a fielder with the ball before the batter gets there, or 3) strikes out. A base runner is out when he or she 1) is between bases and are tagged by a fielder holding the ball, or 2) is forced out.
This Is Not Baseball!
Although the two games are very similar, several nuances exist between baseball and softball that set them apart. In softball, the ball is larger and softer; pitching is done underhand; the dimensions of the playing field are smaller; the bases are closer together; and the pitcher throws at a distance closer to home plate. There is no base leading; stealing is allowed, but runners may not move off base until the pitcher releases the ball; and if a pitcher balks (illegally moving their feet off the pitching mound while a runner is on base), the runner is not awarded a free base – the pitch is deemed a ball instead.
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