What is an Illegal Pitch in Softball?

Softball, a sport that captivates millions, is known for its exciting gameplay and intense competition. The battle between pitcher and batter is at the heart of the game, and a crucial aspect of this duel is the pitcher’s ability to deliver a legal pitch. 

Sometimes, however, a pitcher may inadvertently break the rules and throw an illegal pitch, leading to potential penalties and a change in the game’s momentum.

An illegal pitch in softball is one that violates specific rules, such as an incorrect starting position, an illegal delivery motion, or an improper release. These infractions can result in a “ball” being called or, in some cases, the batter being awarded a base. It is essential for players, coaches, and umpires to recognize illegal pitches to maintain fair gameplay and uphold the spirit of the sport.

Curious about the intricacies of illegal pitches and how they impact the game? In the following sections, we’ll delve into the various types of illegal pitches, the consequences they carry, and tips for pitchers to avoid making these costly mistakes. Stay tuned and get ready to up your softball knowledge, whether you’re a player, coach, or an enthusiastic fan.

What are Illegal Pitches?

Illegal pitches in softball refer to any pitch that violates the rules established by the governing body of the sport. These rules aim to ensure fair play and maintain the safety of players. Illegal pitches can occur due to various reasons, such as an improper pitching motion or using banned pitch types.

Identifying Illegal Pitches

To recognize an illegal pitch, one must understand the specific regulations set forth by the relevant softball association. It’s essential for players, coaches, and umpires to stay updated on the rules to maintain fair play and avoid penalties.

What is an Illegal Pitching Motion?

An illegal pitching motion occurs when a pitcher violates the pitching rules in softball. These rules govern the proper stance, delivery, and execution of a pitch, and any deviation from them can lead to an illegal pitch being called.

Common Illegal Pitching Motions

Improper foot placement: The pitcher’s pivot foot must remain in contact with the pitching plate until the ball leaves their hand.

Leaping: The pitcher is not allowed to leap or jump off the ground during the pitch. Both feet must maintain contact with the ground during delivery.

Crow hopping: This occurs when a pitcher replants their pivot foot after pushing off the pitching plate, resulting in an illegal pitching motion.

Incorrect arm motion: A pitcher’s arm must follow a specific motion when delivering the pitch. Any abrupt stops or changes in motion can lead to an illegal pitch.

What is the Penalty for an Illegal Pitch in Softball?

When an illegal pitch is called, the penalties imposed depend on the specific softball association and the level of play. Generally, the batter is awarded a ball, and any runners on base are advanced one base.

Enforcement and Consequences

Umpires are responsible for identifying and enforcing illegal pitch penalties during a game. Players and coaches must be aware of the consequences and work on correcting any illegal pitching motions to avoid penalties that could negatively impact their team’s performance.

What Pitches are Illegal in Slow Pitch Softball?

Slow pitch softball has specific restrictions on the types of pitches allowed in the game. While fastpitch softball allows a variety of pitches, slow pitch softball requires pitchers to use a limited set of legal pitches.

Slow Pitch Softball Restrictions

  1. Speed restrictions: The ball must be pitched at a moderate speed, typically between 6 and 12 feet per second.
  2. Arc restrictions: The pitch must have an arc between 6 and 12 feet above the ground.
  3. No windmill or slingshot deliveries: Pitchers are not allowed to use windmill or slingshot-style deliveries in slow pitch softball. The arm motion must be smooth and continuous.


What is the most common reason for an illegal pitch in softball?

The most common reason for an illegal pitch is an improper pitching motion, such as incorrect foot placement or an abrupt change in arm motion during delivery.

How can a pitcher correct an illegal pitching motion?

To correct an illegal pitching motion, a pitcher should work with a coach or experienced player to identify the specific issues and practice proper technique. Drills and exercises can help reinforce correct mechanics and muscle memory.

Can a batter swing at an illegal pitch in softball?

Yes, a batter can choose to swing at an illegal pitch. If the batter hits the ball, the play proceeds as normal, and the illegal pitch penalty is nullified.

Are there any differences in illegal pitch rules between fastpitch and slow pitch softball?

Yes, there are differences in illegal pitch rules between fastpitch and slow pitch softball. Fastpitch softball allows for a wider variety of pitches and pitching motions, while slow pitch softball has specific speed and arc restrictions, as well as a prohibition on windmill or slingshot deliveries.


Understanding the intricacies of illegal pitches in softball is crucial for players, coaches, and fans alike. Armed with this knowledge, pitchers can fine-tune their technique to avoid rule violations, while coaches can guide their team effectively.

The impact of illegal pitches on a game can be significant, so being well-informed can give you an edge and contribute to your team’s success.

As you further explore the world of softball, remember to keep these guidelines in mind. By staying informed and practicing proper techniques, you will not only enhance your own skills but also foster a fair and enjoyable experience for all those involved in the game.

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