Baseline Softball Rules
The Nuts and Bolts of the Game

Teaching the baseline softball rules is the next phase in the education of your team after they develop an understanding of the fastpitch softball jargon.

Playing the Game

The softball field is divided into the infield and the outfield. The infield, where the bases are located, is in the shape of a diamond. There are three bases and home plate. The bases are in a counterclockwise rotation in the diamond shape, with first base sixty feet from home, second base sixty feet from first, third base sixty feet from second and home plate sixty feet from third base. The pitcher's mound is in the middle of the diamond between home plate and second base. The pitcher's mound is either 35 feet from home for 10 and younger players, 40 feet from home for 18 and younger players, or 43 feet from home for college players. See the softball field layout page for more information on the softball field and its dimensions.

© Kim Jew Photography Studio
Softball shortstop ready for the next play

In most age groups, there are nine fielders that play the field at a time. In some of the younger age groups, there may be ten players on the field. See the softball positions page for a full explanation of each of the positions. Check with your league to see which softball rules apply.

A "foul line" runs up the path from home plate to first (first base foul line) and from home plate to third (third base foul line). Anything hit to the left of the third base foul line or to the right of the first base foul line that did not cross over the first or third base bags is considered a foul ball. A foul ball is counted as the strike on the batter, unless the batter has two strikes. If a foul ball is caught in the air (fly ball) before it hits the ground, the batter is out.

An official game is seven innings. This may be altered in some leagues or tournaments by a time constraint, in which case, seven innings or the expiration of time ends the game. In some of the younger leagues, an official game may also be fewer than seven innings as defined by league softball rules.

Note that in some leagues, there is a double first base. This was created for safety purposes. The first base to be tug by the runner when running from home to first is the orange bag in foul territory, while the first baseman should be tagging the white bag in fair territory.

© Helmut Steinwender
Softball batter about to make contact with the ball


The batter must be in the batter's box when hitting. The batting line-up, a sequential list of players currently in the game, must be followed throughout the game. The order of the active batters cannot be altered throughout the game with the exception of substituting new players in for the active players. The new player substituted into the game must then hit in the active player's spot in the line-up. The batter remains the hitter until she strikes out, hits the ball in fair territory resulting in a hit or out, or walks.


The pitcher must throw or pitch the ball underhand. The pitcher must show or present the ball to the batter prior to pitching. The pitcher must have two feet on the rubber during the windup phase and must be in contact with the rubber until the release of the ball.

© Kim Jew Photography Studio
Softball runner out at the plate

Base Running

The bases must be run sequentially in a counter clockwise order. Base runners cannot pass each other on the base paths; otherwise the runner passing the other runner will be called out. Runners cannot run outside of the base paths when advancing from one base to another or else they will be called out. A base runner may advance at her own risk to the next base on a fly out after the base runner tags the base she is currently on before proceeding to the next base. Base runners, when running from one base to another, are only allowed to overrun first base. If she overruns any other base, she can be tagged out by the other team. Stealing is permitted in the older more advanced leagues. Taking a lead off of the base and stealing, if permitted at all, is allowed either when the ball crosses home plate on a pitch (for younger teams) or upon the release of the ball by the pitcher. Check with your league rulebook for the softball rules that you follow.

Reentry Rules

Reentry rules vary league by league, tournament by tournament. Generally speaking, if you pinch run for your catcher or pitcher when they are on the bases, they can re-enter the game in the next half inning for defensive purposes. This is known as a "courtesy runner". Some leagues and tournaments also permit you to substitute active players with players on your bench during the game and put the player back in the game later. Check with your league officials or tournament director before the game and verify with the umpire so you know what rules you are playing under.

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