Softball continues to grow yearly within the United States and worldwide. A report from the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) indicates that over 65 million people in 130 nations worldwide play either softball or baseball. A sport created in Chicago, Illinois, in 1887 has continued to evolve into the game played today by all genders across multiple softball variations, including fast pitch and slow pitch softball.
While many associate softball as a sport only women and girls play, the truth is that both men and women play the sport. However, fast pitch softball is more associated with women and girls, with little league, high school, and college fast pitch softball dedicated to women. In comparison, slow pitch softball is played separately and co-ed by both men and women.
Despite being part of the softball family, slow pitch and fast pitch softball are played differently and require different equipment, including different softball bats, gloves, and even different softball sizes. Continue reading to learn more about fast pitch vs slow pitch softball and the 16-inch variation played in softball.
What Are the Differences Between Fast Pitch and Slow Pitch Softball?
One of the main differences between fast pitch and slow pitch softball is the speed the softball is thrown. The pitcher plays fast pitch softball using a whipping underneath style motion while delivering the softball to home plate fast with little to no arc.
In slow pitch softball, the pitcher uses a standard underneath style motion without the whip while slowly throwing it to home plate. Slow pitch softball pitches must have an arc on them and sometimes come in above the hitter’s head, depending on the slow pitch softball league.
Fast pitch softball is typically associated with women and girls, while slow pitch softball is played by both men and women, as well the two playing together in co-ed leagues against other co-ed softball teams.
Slow Pitch vs Fast Pitch Rules
Both slow pitch softball and fast pitch softball are very similar and played around the same core group of rules that follow the basic concepts of baseball. However, there are some differences in the rules of slow pitch softball vs fast pitch softball. Some slow pitch leagues allow 10 total fielders, including a fourth outfielder, whereas fast pitch softball is played with 9 total fielders.
In addition, slow pitch softball does not allow bunting or slap-style hitting in most leagues, while fast pitch softball allows both.
Other rules that may be different between the two versions of softball include a mercy rule in slow pitch softball (outscoring an opponent by more than a set number of runs), a set limit on the number of home runs allowed to be hit per inning and/or game as well as the softball size used for each version.
Slow Pitch vs Fast Pitch: How to Play
Slow pitch softball vs fast pitch softball has the same concept. In most leagues, teams are fielded with seven fielders (first base, second base, shortstop, third base, left fielder, right fielder, center fielder), a catcher, and a pitcher.
The softball pitcher delivers the softball to the plate either slow or fast, depending on the league, while attempting to get the opposing hitter out.
The hitter will try to hit the ball, walk, or strike out. The fielders attempt to record an out once the ball is put in play.
An out can be recorded by catching the ball in the air before it hits the ground, throwing the softball to first base, or any other bag that has a force out before the runner arrives or a baserunner is tagged by a fielder with the ball.
Once three outs are recorded, the fielding team returns to the dugout to bat while the batting team heads to the field. The teams will continue this till the game is over, which could come at different innings based on the set innings dedicated to the game, whether the away team or home team is winning, and if the game must go to extra innings because the game was tied at the end of regulation.
As the defense is attempting to record outs, the offensive team hitting is trying to push runs across home plate by advancing hitters to first base, second base, and third base before coming home. Runners can advance with hits, bunts, walks, hit by batter, wild pitches, doubles, triples, and home runs.
Depending on the league, the game will end either at the end of the top of the sixth inning, after the sixth inning (if the game is a 6-inning game), end of the top of the seventh inning, end of the seventh inning (if the game is a 7-inning game), or either the end of the top half of the inning or bottom half in extra innings depending on whether the home team or away team is winning.
Slow Pitch vs Fast Pitch Gloves
The equipment used by any sport is critical to the player’s success, with the same being said for both slow pitch softball and fast pitch softball. Since the game uses different pitching styles and different size balls, softball gloves come in both fast pitch softball gloves and slow pitch softball gloves. While many can cross over from fast pitch to slow pitch softball, the opposite cannot be said.
Fast pitch softball gloves are typically made of stronger leather, such as steer hide and full-grain leather. In addition, fast pitch softball will require the catcher to wear a catcher’s mitt but does not require the same size glove since the ball is smaller. Fast pitch softball gloves also come in a broader range of options, including the two-piece style, the I-Web, H-Web, and the trapeze. Pitchers in fast pitch softball will want to look to a closed web glove style to hide the pitch they intend to throw.
One of the best softball gloves is the Wilson A2000 fast pitch glove, which comes in various styles and sizes. Other top fast pitch glove manufacturers include Mizuno, Marucci, and Rawlings.
Any style glove, including synthetic leather styles, can be used in slow pitch softball, but no catcher mitt is required behind home plate. In addition, slow pitch softball may need larger gloves both in the infield and outfield, as some leagues may use 12″ softballs and even 14″ softballs.
The Miken Freak Gold Pro 14″ Inch Pro140-BWG is a popular slow pitch softball glove. Other top slow pitch softball manufacturers include Wilson, Rawlings, and Nokona.
Fast Pitch vs Slow Pitch Bats
As the game is played around two different pitch speed types, the bats used are also different while varying from league to league in which the softball is being played. Despite looking similar, fast pitch softball bats and slow pitch softball bats are different.
With the speed of the pitch coming in faster, fast pitch softball bats are lighter, with a maximum drop of -12 based on the league. For example, if you swing a 34-inch bat, the bat’s weight can be no lighter than 22 ounces. Since softballs are pitched slower, a heavier bat can help drive the ball with power. Slow pitch softball bats can be the same weight as the length, with some bats not exceeding 38 ounces.
When it comes to choosing a fast pitch softball bat and/or slow pitch softball bat, you must also do your research as these bats come in different styles, including one-piece/two-piece bats, alloy bats/composite bats, balanced bats, and even end-loaded bats.
One of the top fast pitch softball bats is the Easton Ghost, while others include DeMarini and Louisville.
One of the top slow pitch softball bats is the DeMarini Juggy, while other top slow pitch softball bats include Easton, Louisville, and Axe Bats.
Slow Pitch vs Fast Pitch Ball Size
As you look at slow pitch vs fast pitch softball, one of the last main differences comes with the softball size. Most fast pitch softball leagues use an 11″ softball, whereas slow pitch softball leagues will use larger softballs, including both 12″ and 14″ softball sizes. The main reason for using a larger softball is the speed and distance the ball can be hit in slow pitch softball compared to fast pitch softball.
In addition, one other size of softball is available, and that is the 16″ softball that is played in slow pitch softball in Chicago that doesn’t require the use of gloves. This type of softball can be played on smaller fields and inside.
Softball is an international game played not only in the United States but worldwide by both males and females. Despite being called softball, fast pitch, and slow pitch softball differ mainly in the equipment needed to play.