Softball Illegal Pitches: 5 Key Ways to Identify and Avoid Them

Last updated on July 25, 2023

Softball, a game beloved by many, relies on the precise execution of pitches to keep the excitement alive on the field. However, there’s a crucial aspect of the game that often goes overlooked—the illegal pitch. This uncommon violation can have a significant impact on the outcome of a game, making it essential to unravel the rules and implications surrounding it.

Imagine this: It’s the final inning of an intense softball match, the bases are loaded, and the score is tied. The pitcher winds up for what seems like the perfect pitch. Suddenly, the umpire calls it an illegal pitch. The tension mounts as players, coaches, and spectators grapple with the intricacies of the rule. Such a scenario can make or break a game.

Unraveling the Rules Regarding Illegal Pitches

In ASA softball, an illegal pitch is one that fails to meet the requirements laid out in Rule 6, Section 1. This rule states that the pitcher must have both feet on the pitcher’s plate and deliver the pitch underhanded with a continuous motion. Additionally, the ball must be released from the pitcher’s hand before her forward step, and she must not use any trick or deceptive pitches. ASA emphasizes the importance of consistency in the pitching motion to ensure a level playing field.

On the other hand, the USSSA follows a slightly different approach to the illegal pitch. They focus on the pitcher’s wrist position, prohibiting certain wrist flips or spins that might deceive the batter. USSSA Rule 6, Section 8, outlines these prohibited wrist movements and reinforces the significance of fair and transparent pitching techniques.

It’s crucial to recognize that other softball leagues may have their own distinct rules regarding illegal pitches, so players and coaches should always be aware of the specific regulations in their respective leagues.

Identifying and Correcting Illegal Pitches

Pitchers play a pivotal role in the game, and their ability to execute proper pitches is crucial. To avoid unintentional illegal pitches, pitchers can take proactive measures to self-assess and correct any tendencies that might lead to violations.

One fundamental aspect of proper pitching technique is balance. A balanced stance helps pitchers stay grounded on the pitcher’s plate, reducing the risk of stepping forward before releasing the ball. Additionally, focusing on a fluid and continuous motion throughout the windmill ensures compliance with ASA rules.

Coaches can also play a vital role in helping pitchers refine their techniques. By closely observing their players during practice sessions and games, coaches can identify any potential illegal pitching actions. Constructive feedback and personalized drills can then be used to address these issues and promote positive growth in players’ skills.

During games, open communication between pitchers, coaches, and umpires is essential. Pitchers can respectfully inquire about the legality of their motions, helping them better understand the rules and make real-time adjustments if necessary. Umpires, in turn, can provide valuable insights to pitchers about specific instances of potential rule violations, fostering a cooperative learning environment.

Pitch being thrown with view of pitcher, batter, and umpire

Umpires’ Role and Interpretations

Umpires are the guardians of fair play on the softball field, and their role in detecting and calling illegal pitches is of utmost importance. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that interpreting the rules consistently can be challenging for umpires, as some illegal pitching actions might be subtle and challenging to detect.

Umpiring in softball, like any sport, involves human judgment and interpretation. As a result, there may be variations in how some umpires call illegal pitches during games. Factors such as experience, personal interpretations of the rules, and angles of observation can influence their decision-making. While some degree of subjectivity may persist due to the nature of the job, continuous training and adherence to shared guidelines. Aimed to minimize discrepancies and ensure a fair and enjoyable softball experience for all players and teams.

Misconceptions about Illegal Pitches

It’s worth addressing the term “balk” in relation to softball. In baseball, a balk refers to an illegal motion made by the pitcher, which leads to an automatic advancement of the base runners. This violation occurs when the pitcher makes deceptive or prohibited movements with the ball, such as faking a pitch without delivering it or failing to come to a complete stop in their motion after starting. However, in softball, the concept of a balk does not exist. Without the ability for baserunners to lead off the base, the use of a balk disappears.


Decoding the softball illegal pitch and understanding the rules and implications surrounding it is crucial for players, coaches, and umpires alike. By adhering to the regulations set forth by softball leagues like ASA and USSSA, we can ensure a level playing field and maintain the integrity of the game.

As the softball community continues to grow, debunking misconceptions and misunderstandings will play a vital role in fostering a deeper appreciation and love for the sport. By working together, players, coaches, and umpires can promote a positive and enjoyable softball experience for all involved.

In conclusion, let’s celebrate the spirit of softball and the dedication of those who keep the game alive. Whether you’re a player striving for perfection, a coach mentoring young talents, or an umpire ensuring fair play, the softball illegal pitch serves as a reminder of the importance of unity and mutual respect in this beloved sport. So, next time you step onto the diamond, play with honor, and remember, a game played by the rules is a game played with heart.

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