Currently, the Oxford Softball League is for mixed (co-ed) slowpitch softball, although there are opportunities for ‘single sex’ tournaments and many of our players play fastpitch softball. Slowpitch softball is a social team sport, played by teams made up of 5 men and 5 women. The ball is thrown (pitched) underarm and hit by the batter towards the fielders on the defensive team who wear gloves on their non-throwing hand to catch the ball. Its closest comparable sport is baseball.
Despite its name, the balls used are hard, larger than a baseball, and two sizes are used within the same game! The balls used for male batters are slightly larger, to attempt to even out distances hit by both sexes.
Here’s a quick run-down of the main rules
The playing field, or diamond
The field is made up of three bases (first, second and third) at the corners of the infield, plus a home plate over which the batter tries to hit the ball. The four corners make up a square on end, or a diamond shape.
Scoring a run
A run is scored every time someone from the batting (offensive) team completes a circuit, having touched all four bases in turn. It doesn’t matter if the batter-runner has stopped at each base, while others come up to bat, or if s/he manages to run the circuit in one go (that’s a home run!)
Running around the bases
Batter-runners, standing on a base and waiting for a chance to run further as another teammate takes a turn at bat, are not allowed to leave their base until the ball is hit by the batter. (Unlike baseball or fastpitch softball, you’re not allowed to steal bases.)
How to get someone out
Batters can be caught out by fielders if they catch the batted ball before it hits the ground. Batter-runners can also be put out by tagging them (touching them with the ball) if they are not touching a base at the time. If a batter-runner has to get to a base (as a team-mate is trying to get to the base which they have left), the fielder doesn’t need tag them out: he/she can simply hold the ball and put their foot on the base before the runner gets there (that’s a force out).
A batter may be put out if they fail to hit the ball into the field after three good pitches (strikes): this is called a strikeout. Mind you, if the pitcher throws four poor pitches (these are called “balls“) at the batter, the batter gets a free walk to first base.
After three outs, the teams change places and the fielders (or defensive team) then get to bat (becoming the offensive team). The same person can be out twice: if they bat once, and get out, it may be possible for the rest of the team to all bat and the person who was out previously bats again. After both teams have batted, that is called a full inning. There are usually seven innings in a game, but can be more if the match is tied at the end of seven innings.