In order to score a run in softball, a player on the batting team must safely advance around all four bases. The bases are numbered in corresponding order as follows: first base, second base and third base. The last base is called home plate. The bases form a diamond shape and the softball field is commonly referred to as the diamond. A player starts their journey around the basepath batting at home plate.
First, a player on the offensive team needs to either get a hit, or manage to reach base safely in a variety of other ways. A player can advance to first base on a walk, an error made by a defensive player, or on a fielder's choice. Getting a successful hit is the most common way to have the batter reach the base safely.
Once a player reaches safely on base, they are then considered to be a base runner. It becomes the team's goal to advance that runner to the next base, and eventually to home plate. When on the basepath, the base runner can advance to the next base when the batter puts the ball in play. In addition, the base runner can also advance bases by stealing, or when there is a walk or balk. While a player is running between bases, the defensive team has the ability to tag them out. Getting tagged out results in the base runner being removed from the basepath and is recorded as an out for the offense. If the base runner rounds all four bases without being tagged out, then the offensive team scores one run.
When the offensive team gets a hit, it makes it easier for the base runner to advance bases. Multiple hits in a single inning usually results in a player crossing home plate safely and generating a run for their team. However, the most efficient way to score runs in softball is by the home run. A home run occurs when the batter hits the ball in fair play over the outfield wall. A home run enables all current base runners, including the batter, to round the bases and score a run for their team. If a batter hits the ball and subsequently a base runner scores, that is considered a run batted in (RBI) for the batter.
If there is a base runner occupying either second or third base, then the base runner is considered to be in scoring position. A strategy in softball is to try and advance base runners to either second or third base even if that means giving up an out. This strategy is effective because even if a batter hits a single with a base runner on second or third base, there is a high probability the base runner will score. A single is the most common form of a hit, but a single will most likely not advance a runner from first base to home plate. A double or greater is usually needed for such an occurrence to happen, and those types of hits are harder to achieve then singles.
It is a common misconception that hitting a softball is easier than hitting a baseball. Hitting a softball is just as difficult as a baseball because the pitcher is only 43 feet away from home plate compared to 60 feet for baseball. In softball, a batters reaction time has to be quicker. In addition, softballs have different movements than baseballs. A common pitch in softball, the riseball, rises up on a hitter. In baseball, all pitches have a sinking action. The rising pitch is quite difficult for a batter to make contact with.
Errors occur when the fielder messes up a routine play and therefore the batter reaches base safely. The official scorer decides whether the play is an error or a hit. Commonly, errors are easy to spot. If a player drops a pop up or bobbles a ground ball, then the play will be scored an error. However, errors can be difficult to decide when a player drops or bobbles the ball while diving to make a play.
Fastpitch is the version of softball played competitively at the collegiate and Olympic level. In fastpitch, the pitcher utilizes a full windmill motion and there are 9 players on the field. Slowpitch is a less serious version of softball commonly played in "beer leagues." In slowpitch, there are 10 players on the field. Also, the pitcher must throw the ball with a certain amount of arc and can only use a half-windmill motion.
The winning pitcher in NCAA Softball must meet the following criteria. The pitcher must pitch a total of four or more innings before being replaced. When the pitcher is replaced, the pitcher's team must be ahead by one or more runs. In addition, the pitcher's team must stay ahead for the remainder of the game. If the score becomes tied at any point after the pitcher is replaced, then the pitcher will not be credited with the win even if her team ends up winning the game.