The rules of softball

The laws of the game

Need to learn the rules of dodgeball? We've got you covered. Check out our quick guide to find out everything you need to know. The official rules of softball are laid down by the International Softball Federation (ISF), but we won’t force you to wade through those.

Of course, we can’t tell you everything there is to know about the rules of softball, but there should be enough here to get you started.

The rules of softball

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).

So how can a batter or runner be given out?

A batter or runner is out in the following circumstances:

  • If the ball the batter has just hit is caught without first bouncing.
  • The ball is thrown to a base before a runner gets there.
  • A player running between bases is tagged by the ball (touched by the ball or the glove of the defending player).
  • If three strikes are called by the umpire.
  • They run more than 3ft (0.9m) out of the base line to avoid being tagged.

There are a number of rules of softball specific to the pitcher who must pitch the ball into the strike zone to give the batter a fair chance of hitting it. Runners must follow a range of rules determining how they are allowed to advance between bases, but you can find out the specifics of this the more you watch and play.

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