Rules & Strategies of Softball
Fast pitch softball is a competitive game that is often low scoring because pitchers can fire fastballs that reach or exceed 70 miles per hour. Additionally, those pitchers can throw risers, drops, curve balls, sliders and changes of pace. Outstanding pitching means runs are at a premium and coaches often find that one or two late runs can mean the difference in a game. Coaches need to come up with strategies and must know the rules to give their teams a chance to compete.
Since so many game are close in the late innings, teams often use the sacrifice bunt to advance runners. If the leadoff batter can work her way on base in a tight, low-scoring game, expect the next batter to attempt a sacrifice bunt. In most cases, the sacrifice bunt will be pushed to the first-base side of the field. That's a difficult play for a right-handed first baseman to stop. If she is charging in and picks up the ball on the run, she will have to spin completely around in order to make an accurate throw to second. While it is somewhat easier for a left-handed first baseman to make that play, bunting toward first base is usually an effective strategy.
The slap-hitting technique is often employed by left-handed hitters against hard-throwing pitchers. When the slap-hitting technique is used, the left-handed batter will attempt to slap the ball in the hole on the left side of the infield between the shortstop and the third baseman while getting a running start out of the batter's box. When the hitter makes decent contact with this type of swing, it is very difficult to throw her out at first because she should be getting a fast start out of the batter's box.
Number of Players
Fast pitch softball allows teams to play with 10 players on the field. The extra fielder is almost always positioned in the outfield, but the coach may position the extra player anywhere she wants as long as she is in fair territory. The only player allowed in foul territory is the catcher. Additionally, a designated hitter may be used in softball. The coach can choose to use a designated hitter for any one of the fielders. Unlike baseball, the designated hitter does not have to be used to bat in place of the pitcher. The coach can choose to use the designated hitter or may allow all of the position players to bat. However, if the team does not choose to use the designated hitter at the start of the game, it cannot decide to use one later in the game.
Pitchers must be straightforward in their delivery of the ball to home plate. Pitchers are not allowed to step backwards or to the sides when delivering the ball. Stepping in any direction other than directly at home plate is considered "deceptive" and that pitch is illegal. Pitchers may use a windmill motion to deliver the ball, but pitchers are only allowed to make one revolution with their pitching arm.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.