Fast pitch softball


Fastpitch softball, also known as fastpitch or fastball, is a form of softball played commonly by women and men, though coed fast-pitch leagues also exist. The International Softball Federation (ISF) is the international governing body of softball. The ISF recognizes three pitching styles: fast pitch, “modified” fast pitch, and slow pitch. Fast pitch is considered the most competitive form of softball. It is the form of softball that was played at the Olympic Games in 199620002004, and 2008. The fast pitch style is also used in college softball and international competition.

Pitchers throw the ball with an underhand motion at speeds up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) for women and up to 85 miles per hour (137 km/h) for men.


Fastpitch softball became a very popular sport in the US during the ’30s and ’40s. Commercial and semi-pro leagues sprang up all over the country in large cities and small towns alike. Both men’s and women’s leagues were popular and it was not unusual for both to be playing on the same night in a “double-header”. Because of the speed of these games, they were very popular with spectators. During those years, the women’s games were popular and fun to watch but the real draws were the men’s games. Pitchers that could hurl the ball in excess of 85 mph at a batter 46 feet away could strike out 15 to 20 batters a game. To make things even more difficult, the underhand delivery meant the ball was rising as it approached the plate and a talented pitcher could make the ball perform some baffling aerobatics on its journey to the batter’s box. The Amateur Softball Association was formed in 1934 and held a National tournament each year to determine the best softball team in the nation. Soon there were the state and regional tournaments all over the country selecting teams to vie for the coveted National Championship. The competition was fierce with teams competing not only on the field but in recruiting the best “fireballer” around. It was not unusual for a talented pitcher to be recruited by the winning team after his team was eliminated from a tournament. It was rumored that some of these “amateurs” were making a fair living from playing softball. Fastpitch softball started to lose popularity in the mid-50s for a variety of reasons. More and more families were getting television in their homes and so games drew smaller crowds. More teams were starting to play “slow pitch” with its greater emphasis on fielding. Although men’s fast pitch softball is still played, the game is now mostly played by women.
As the worldwide participation in softball continued to grow, the sport was eventually included in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games at Atlanta, Georgia. The ASA responded by developing a coaching pool consisting of the best coaches in the country along with a selection committee which would recruit the most talented US softball players. The selection committee was responsible for making the final cuts to decide which players would compete for the US team at all international competitions throughout the year. The strategy was successful as the United States won their first Olympic gold medal in softball against China with a 3–0 win. This success was followed by two more Olympic gold medals and seven world Championships.


The basic rules of softball:

  • Two teams (of nine players) alternate turns at batting and fielding (often called defense).
  • The aim for the team batting is to advance a runner around all bases to the home plate to score runs.
  • The defending team tries to defend its bases by getting three outs and not allowing the batting team to score.
  • The team that scores the most runs in seven innings wins. (A tiebreaker procedure comes into play if the scores are tied after the seventh innings.)
  • Each team’s innings ends when three of its batters have been ruled out and then the team that was defending goes in to bat.

The playing field

  • There are four bases (first base, second base, third base, and home plate) on the field of play.
  • The lines between the bases are generally 45 to 60ft (approximately 12 to 18m) apart and when joined they form a ‘diamond’.
  • Inside the diamond is the infield which contains the pitcher’s plate from which the pitcher throws the ball underarm; outside the baselines is the outfield.
  • Any ball going outside the first or third base line is a foul ball (runners are not allowed to advance and the batter gets another try unless the ball was caught in the air, in which case they are out).



Softballs are created in many different sizes. In fast pitch softball, most leagues use a ball with a circumference of 12 inches (30 cm) that weighs 6.25 ounces (177 g). Younger players generally play with an 11-inch (28 cm) circumference ball. The ball has a leather or synthetic leather surface and may optionally have a raised seam. The ball’s color has changed over time: most leagues have switched from a white ball to a high-visibility “optic” yellow ball; some men’s leagues still use the white ball.


Bats in fastpitch softball come in various sizes and consist of wood, metal or other composite materials. Some leagues may require wooden bats because of player safety issues. All bats used in ASA softball competition must have an ASA-approved stamp and be included in a list of approved bat models published by the ASA national office. All organizations, such as NSA, USSSA, ISA, and ISFA, all require their own approved stamps, without one, the bat is illegal ad cannot be used, a usage will result in being thrown out of the game All A fastpitch softball bat may be no more than 34 inches long, 2​14 inches in diameter. Also, a “drop” of no more than 13 is allowed. The drop is calculated by taking the length of the bat in inches and subtracting the weight in ounces. Female players tend to use specialized fastpitch bats, while male players typically prefer slow-pitch bats.


Gloves are worn by all members of the defensive team and are made in many styles and sizes. The gloves are made with leather or a sturdy fabric. The catcher and first baseman usually wear mitts which include additional padding and no fingers. Gloves are similar to baseball gloves, but softball allows larger sizes up to 14 inches from top to bottom.


Fastpitch softball uniforms usually include a shirt, undershirt, properly fitted undershorts, baseball socks, cap, visor, and shorts. Baseball caps and headbands are optional for women, baseball caps are mandatory for men. Most female fastpitch softball players wear “sliding shorts” which protect the back of thighs when sliding into bases. Some players may also wear shin guards to protect the area below the knee up to the ankle. Male players wear the long “baseball style” pants. Fastpitch softball shoes may have cleats or spikes. Rounded metal or hard plastic spikes are not allowed due to the increased risk of injury to an opponent in a slide.

Batting gloves can also be worn when playing fast pitch or slow-pitch softball. Batting gloves are designed to improve a player’s grip and to provide protection for batters when they are at the plate. Batting gloves also provide added protection for the hand in the fielding glove when fielding and catching balls. Batting gloves are designed to prevent a player’s hands from breaking.


Helmets are required in fast pitch softball. There are many different styles of batting helmet but must have two ear flaps, and most girls have a face mask on their helmet for extra protection. Any helmet that has been damaged, altered or previously repaired is not permitted for use. The catcher must wear a protective helmet, a face mask, and a chest protector. Male catchers must wear a protective cup. Aside from the catcher, any other player on the fast pitch softball team may wear a protective mask or face guard in the field. These masks are designed to prevent traumatic facial injuries.


Cat Osterman

Jennie Finch