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Fastpitch Softball Pitching Rules

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Fastpitch softball pitching rules are tough to understand and are often misunderstood by parents and coaches alike. Umpires often don't completely understand them and call them incorrectly, further adding to the confusion. I'm going to attempt to put an end to some of the confusion now, at least for those who take the time to read and understand this article.

The Two Most Misunderstood Fastpitch Softball Pitching Rules: Crow Hopping and Leaping

Crow hopping and leaping are the two softball pitching rules that are the most misunderstood and incorrectly called rules in the book. They are so misunderstood that I dedicated an entire article to them previously. If you aren't familiar with these two types of illegal pitches, please read the original crow hopping and leaping article first. It's important to understand what they are and when they should be called. For those who know (or just don't feel like clicking the link), here's a quick refresher.

Crow hopping occurs when a pitcher hops or slides forward with her plant foot, replants it and proceeds with the pitching motion from the new location closer to the plate. This gives the pitcher an advantage by allowing them to be a couple feet closer to the batter when they release the ball. The key thing to keep in mind with a crow hop is the fact that the pitcher is moving the plant foot forward and replanting it, then pitching from the new, closer location.

Leaping occurs when the pitcher starts her pitching motion and leaps forward with her stride foot. During the forward leap, the plant or drag foot leaves the ground while the stride foot is still in the air. According to the rules, at least one foot must be in contact with the ground during the entire pitching motion, so this is an illegal pitch as well.

The confusion comes into play when umpires call the two illegal pitches interchangeably. I've seen crow hopping called leaping and leaping called crow hopping, and I've seen it lead to a lot of confusion amongst coaches and parents alike. Knowing what each of them actually are can help save you a lot of confusion.

Here's a link to a YouTube video that shows a pitcher crow hopping. Notice the little step forward she takes with her drag foot prior to starting her pitching motion:

 

Another Misunderstood Fastpitch Softball Pitching Rule: Foot Placement

First, let me make something clear. This rule can vary from sanctioning group to sanctioning group. Check the rulebook for the group you're playing for the exact details on this rule. For NSA and ASA softball (and the NCAA, for those planning on playing college ball), the rules state that both feet must be in contact with the pitching rubber at the start of the pitch. No backward step is allowed. It's OK to start with your plant foot behind the rubber, as long as at least the toe of your cleats is touching the rubber when you start your pitching motion.

I've seen a number of pitchers who slide their stride foot across the mound prior to beginning the stride. While opposing coaches will sometimes complain about it, this is a perfectly legal motion as long as both feet stay in contact with the rubber.

Another item to keep in mind regarding foot placement is where the stride foot lands on the stride. Draw an imaginary line from the outside edge of the pitching rubber to the outside edge of the plate on the same side. The stride foot can't land outside of this line or it's an illegal pitch.

Time Between Pitches

This is another rule that can vary between sanctioning agencies, but the norm is 20 seconds. This rules is typically enforced from the time the pitcher gets the ball and steps into the circle. This is a rule that is only sporadically enforced. The only time I've seen umpires really enforce the 20 second rule was when I had a pitcher who would hold the ball against her chest and spin it over and over again. It did a great job of throwing off batters, but also drew a lot of complaints from coaches and irritated umpires, who began calling her for taking more than 20 seconds...even when she hadn't. Then again, the only time I've really seen a pitcher take more than twenty seconds was when they were doing it intentionally, so the rule's there for a reason.

Keep these fastpitch softball pitching rules in mind during practice and have the pitcher correct any problems then. If you wait until game time to try to correct a pitcher, it's going to be too late.

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