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Softball Terminology

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we detail basic terms and definitions that are important to understanding a game of softball, a close cousin to the very popular sport of baseball.

Softball Terminology

If someone plops you down in the middle of a field, and you're surrounded by a couple dozen teenagers swinging sticks at large yellow balls, cheering, and running around a diamond, chances are you landed in the middle of a softball game! Softball is very similar to America's favorite pastime, baseball, but there are important differences. In this lesson, we'll run down the list of terms that are important to understanding softball.

Key Terms

Ball - A pitch outside of the strike zone which the batter lets pass. If the batter accumulates four balls before she accumulates three strikes, she receives a walk.

Bat - The long metal or wooden stick used by the batter to swing at pitches. Different leagues have different restrictions regarding bat weight, size, and material.

Batter - The offensive player who swings at the pitches and attempts to reach base by hitting a ball into fair play or accumulating enough balls for a walk.

Base - There are four bases (first, second, third, home - at times also referred to as 'home plate') on the field that a softball player must traverse in order to score a run. When touching a base, a softball player cannot be tagged out.

Bases Loaded - When all three bases are occupied by runners.

Bunt - When the batter attempts to reach base tapping a pitch into fair territory and reaching base before being thrown out.

Catcher - The defensive player behind home plate who catches the ball thrown by the pitcher. She may also catch balls thrown toward home plate.

Double - A ball hit hard enough to allow the batter to make it safely to second base.

Double Play - When the defense records two outs in the same play.

Fielder's Choice - When a player reaches base by virtue of another baserunner being thrown out.

Foul Ball - A ball that lands outside of the foul lines that run from home plate along first and third and extend outward indefinitely.

Glove - A leather mitt worn by defensive players to aid in catching the softball.

Hit by Pitch - When a batter is hit by a pitch, she automatically proceeds to first base.

Home Run - When a batter hits the ball so well she runs through all four bases before the ball is fielded.

Inning - A round of a softball game when both teams have had the chance to bat. Depending on the league, softball games generally consist of 6, 7, or 9 innings.

Interference - When the baserunner impedes a defensive player's attempt to gather a batted ball. At the umpire's discretion, the baserunner guilty of interference may be called out.

Passed Ball - When a catcher fails to field a pitch properly, allowing the runners to advance along the base paths.

Obstruction - When a fielder impedes a baserunner's progress toward the next base. At the umpire's discretion, the baserunner may be allowed to advance to the next base.

Out - A call made by the umpire when either a batter strikes out, is tagged out, flies out, or is forced out. Each defense must record three outs before they can bat. Out can be made through catching a ball that was hit, when a pitcher strikes out a batter, or when a defensive player tags out a runner who is not on a base.

Run - The act of scoring in softball. Each time a baserunner reaches home plate, she has scored a run and accumulated one point for her team.

Pitch - The act by the pitcher of throwing the ball toward the catcher, giving the batter a chance to either swing or not swing at the ball.

Pitcher - The defensive player who throws the ball to the catcher.

Sacrifice - Any play which results in a positive net outcome for the offensive team even though the batter is called out. The most common types are the 'sacrifice fly,' where a batter hits a fly ball to the outfield and the runner on third base can tag up and score before the ball is thrown in, and the 'sacrifice bunt,' where a batter bunts the ball in order to advance other baserunners around the bases.

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