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7 Differences Between Slowpitch And Fastpitch Softball

By Daniel | Softball

Sep 15
7 Differences Between Slowpitch And Fastpitch Softball

Last Updated on

Many people, when hearing the term softball, will immediately make a connection to women, large yellow balls, and big, looping pitches.  But, softball is so much more than that. It’s a glorious game that can involve both men and women, can be fast or slow pitch and can vary greatly depending on how you want to play.

It is the vast variations of the game that make it so greatly.  I have always been fascinated by the sport and feel that it doesn’t always get the credit it deserves.  Softball is a sport that allows kids to be kids as well as allowing adults to feel like kids again. It is one of the most unique and amazing sports around today.

But, there are some major differences between slowpitch and fastpitch softball.  Many people tend to confuse the two, but there are some stark differences that change the way the game is played.  We will be looking at seven ways that the two vary.

#1-The Pitch

It makes sense to begin with pitching.  As the name indicates, there is fast pitching and slow pitching.  Fastpitch is the most competitive form of softball that people play.  High School and College softball features fastpitch softball, as well as teams that compete in the Olympics.

Slowpitch softball is typically seen in younger ages as well as men and women who compete in Co-ed softball.  Slowpitch softball certainly comes with its competitive edge but on a slower scale. Many recreational leagues are formed around slow pitch softball.  This is done to give everyone a chance to succeed with the pitch coming at a much slower speed. 

What are a couple of differences in the way that the pitch is delivered?

Slowpitch

  • Half-windmill pitch
  • Half rotation
  • Thrown with an arc between 6-12 feet
  • Slowpitch mechanics

Fastpitch 

  • Full-windmill pitch
  • 360-degree rotation
  • Thrown straight at speeds of 60mph+
  • Fastpitch mechanics

#2-Number Of Players On A Field

Slowpitch and fastpitch softball feature a big difference in the number of players on the field.  In comparison to baseball, fastpitch softball features all the same positions. There are 9 players, which includes one catcher, one pitcher, four infielders, and three outfielders.

In slowpitch softball, there are 10 players that are on the softball diamond.  The added position comes in the outfield with four outfielders instead of the standard three.  

Why is there a difference?

The reason behind this is because the ball is pitched much slower and with an arc in slowpitch softball, many of the hits are flyballs to the outfield.  This makes the game more challenging to find open space to hit the ball. Even though people may consider slowpitch softball easier because of the speed of the ball, it is actually much more difficult because the area to hit the ball is not as wide open as in fastpitch.

#3-Pitching Distance

Another major difference between slowpitch and fastpitch softball is the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.  In fastpitch softball, the distance from the mound to home is 35-43 feet depending on the ages of the players. Players that are just starting out at a young age will pitch from 35 feet, while more experienced older players will pitch from 43 feet.

In slowpitch softball, the distance from the mound to the plate is 50 feet.  The reason behind the difference is because of the arch that is needed to get the ball over the plate as well as safety concerns.  Because the ball is pitched so slowly and the batters have time to really put a hard swing on it, it is safer to have the pitcher further back for a little more reaction time distance.

You will be able to see in this video, a drill that softball players will use to work on distance pitching.

#4-Catching Equipment

In slowpitch softball, catchers are required to wear just a face mask and do not need to squat in the normal catching position.  But, many slowpitch softball catcher’s will opt to squat for added protection. Many older leagues won’t even require the catcher’s to wear a mask.  They will stand further back behind the batter than normal, just to be safe. In most cases, foul balls in slowpitch softball do not occur.

In fastpitch softball, catchers are required to wear the full catcher’s gear.  This consists of a facemask, chest protector, and shin guards. They squat right behind the batter and are expected to block balls in the dirt similar to baseball.  

Slowpitch Softball Catcher

Slowpitch Softball Catcher

Fastpitch Softball Catcher

Fastpitch Softball Catcher

#5-Number Of Innings

In slowpitch softball, games are 7 innings in length while in fastpitch softball, games are 9 innings in length.

The reason behind the difference is because of the pace of play.  Slowpitch softball tends to be played a little bit more of a relaxed pace and because there are so many more opportunities to hit the ball, the game tends to be slower.  By not playing the extra two innings, the game time can be somewhat close to a 9 inning fastpitch softball game.

Fastpitch softball has most of the same rules as baseball.  Fastpitch softball is tough to hit, so the game tends to feature many more strikeouts than you would find in slowpitch.  As a result, the game speeds along at a quicker rate which allows for the extra two innings to be played.

#6-Bunting

In slowpitch softball, bunting is not allowed.  The reason behind this is because players in the infield tend to play further back because of how hard the ball can be hit.  The ball is coming at such a slow pace that the batter can really gear up to smash the ball. It would be extremely unsafe for a slowpitch infielder to move in close to the hitter.

In fastpitch softball, bunting is allowed and used very often.  Many softball players will slash bunt, which is an extremely effective weapon to have.  As mentioned above, there are many strikeouts that occur in fastpitch softball. Having someone on your team who can effectively bunt the ball is an asset that every team wants.

Take a look at these two bunting videos to help demonstrate how valuable it is to know how to bunt in softball.

#7-Stealing

In slowpitch softball, players are not allowed to steal bases.  This makes a lot of sense because it would be too easy to steal a base because of the speed of the pitch.  Many players would reach the next base before the ball ever reached home plate. Players in slowpitch softball cannot advance to another base until contact is made with the ball.

In fastpitch softball, players are allowed to steal bases as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.  Unlike in baseball, a softball player may not take a lead off of the base. They cannot leave the base until the ball has successfully left the hand of the pitcher.  It is very important to get a good jump in softball.

Conclusion

As you were able to see, there are some pretty big differences between slowpitch and fastpitch softball.  The basic rules of the game remain the same, but due to the safety and speed of play, a few exceptions were made.

Both ways of playing are exciting and fun for players of all ages.  It is one of the largest co-ed sports in the world as well. No matter what age you are, softball is available for you to play.

I hope that you enjoyed reading about some of the key differences between slowpitch and fastpitch softball.  Please feel free to leave any comments that you would like in our comment section below and, as always, please share this article with your friends.