fastpitch vs slowpitch softball

Softball is a sport cherished by countless sports enthusiasts. With its adaptable play styles — commonly referred to as fastpitch and slowpitch — the game caters to a broad array of player skills and tastes. But, what are the unique attributes that differentiate these two styles? Within this guide, we delve into the critical variations in both the rules and equipment of fastpitch and slowpitch softball. We hope to deepen your understanding of these distinct styles and, in turn, heighten your performance on the field.

In this article, we’ll cover:

Fastpitch softball is a high-speed, high-skill variant of softball enjoyed by men, women, and coed teams. Fastpitch incorporates a “windmill” pitch, an underhand motion where the pitcher starts with their arm at the hip, makes a complete circular motion over the head, brings the arm back to the hip, and finally releases the ball with a swift snap of the hand. This technique allows pitchers to deliver the ball at remarkable speeds. Players can steal bases and bunt, introducing strategic depth to the game. Combined with the smaller field size, these rules contribute to fastpitch games' fast-paced and high-energy nature.

This rule of the game, coupled with the liberty to steal bases and bunt, infuses the game with strategic depth. The smaller field size and unique rules make fastpitch games fast-paced and intense.

On the other side of the spectrum, slowpitch softball is a game where the ball is pitched slowly to the batter. The emphasis is less on speed and more on precision and strategy. The pitcher delivers the ball with a slow, high-arcing trajectory, and base stealing is typically not permitted.

Despite the slower pitch, the role of the pitcher remains critical. Skilled pitchers employ accuracy and a variety of spins and speeds to keep batters off balance. A focus on precise play and teamwork provides a unique challenge, making slowpitch an engaging twist on the traditional game of softball.

The game is played by all age groups and is especially popular among adults due to its relaxed pace. It offers a different challenge from fastpitch, placing a greater emphasis on batting and fielding. Due to the slower pitch, the batter has a higher chance of hitting the ball, resulting in more frequent fielding plays and adding a different dimension to the game.

As is implied by their names, the distinction between slowpitch and fastpitch softball primarily lies in the pitching style, which influences the manner in which players hit the ball and even the type of gear they use. 

In slowpitch, slower pitches allow players to aim for significant hits. In contrast, the fastpitches in fastpitch facilitate bunting, slapping, and singles. While fastpitch pitchers focus on striking out players, slowpitch pitchers aim to throw the ball slow enough to make powerful hits more challenging.

While the fundamental principles of softball remain consistent, there are critical differences in rules between fastpitch and slowpitch that influence gameplay strategies and techniques.

The contrast in rules for pitching in fastpitch and slowpitch is quite stark. In fastpitch, the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate ranges from 35-43 feet, depending on the age and experience of the players. This shorter distance facilitates the fast, low-arc pitches typical of the fastpitch style, making it more challenging for the batter to hit the ball.

On the other hand, slowpitch rules dictate a greater distance from the mound to the plate — precisely 50 feet. This extended distance serves dual purposes: it accommodates the slow, high-arc trajectory required in slowpitch, and it enhances safety by providing the pitcher more reaction time against hard swings. Notably, while different pitch types are allowed in fastpitch, slowpitch rules don’t permit variations in pitch types. This emphasis on the trajectory, rather than speed, shifts the game's focus more towards strategic placement and fielding.

Bunting is another area where the rules differ significantly between slowpitch and fastpitch softball. In fastpitch, bunting is a legitimate and often-used strategy. A batter might choose to ‘bunt’ the ball—lightly hit it without a full swing—in an attempt to advance a base runner or to make it onto the base themselves.

In slowpitch softball, however, bunting is generally not allowed. This rule encourages players to make full, clean hits into the field of play, emphasizing the batting and fielding aspects of the game.

Base stealing is another crucial element that differentiates fastpitch from slowpitch softball. In fastpitch, runners can ‘steal’ bases by running to the next base as the pitcher is throwing the ball, adding a layer of strategic complexity to the game. The timing and speed of base runners are paramount in successfully executing a steal.

However, in slowpitch, stealing bases is typically not allowed. Runners can only leave their base once the batter makes contact with the ball. This rule further slows down the game pace and increases the emphasis on hitting and fielding strategy.

The unique aspects of each game style are reflected in the equipment used in fastpitch and slowpitch softball.

These differing pitching-styles also affect the choice of softball bat. Although the speed of the ball may influence the decision, choosing a softball bat is also a matter of personal preference and suitability for each player. It is also critical to be aware of the rules and guidelines of the specific league one is playing in, as this can determine the type of bat that can be used. For example, fastpitch softball, due to its high speeds, typically disallows wood bats to prevent possible injuries from splintering.

In fastpitch softball, bats are generally lighter and narrower to accommodate the need for speed and quick response time due to the fastpitch. The lightness of the bat allows for swift swings, providing the batter a better chance of hitting the fast-moving ball.

On the other hand, slowpitch bats are typically heavier and have a larger barrel, which is ideal for hitting the slower, high-arcing pitch. The heavier weight is designed to generate power, allowing batters to hit the ball further. 

Check out our guides on How to Choose the Right Fastpitch Softball Bat and How to Choose the Right Slowpitch Softball Bat for more information.

Fastpitch and slowpitch softballs are slightly different, with fastpitch balls being smaller and having a higher compression for high-speed play. Slowpitch softballs are larger and softer, making them ideal for the game's high-arc trajectory.

Fastpitch gloves are tailored to accommodate the smaller ball size and the need for quick transfer of the ball from the glove to the player's hand. Slowpitch gloves, on the other hand, tend to be larger to handle the bigger ball and harder hits commonly found in the game. 

Learn more from our guides on How to Choose a Fastpitch Softball Glove and How to Choose a Slowpitch Softball Glove.

Can you use a slowpitch softball bat for fastpitch?

While technically possible, it is not recommended to use a slowpitch bat in a fastpitch game. The heavier weight and larger barrel of a slowpitch bat could slow down your swing, making it harder to hit the fast-moving ball.

What is not allowed in slowpitch softball?

Several actions are not permitted in slowpitch softball, including bunting, stealing bases before the ball is hit, and making fake tag-outs. These rules are in place to ensure the focus remains on strategic batting and fielding.

Can players lead off in slowpitch softball?

In slowpitch softball, runners cannot leave their base or "lead off" until the batter makes contact with the ball.

Can you bunt in slowpitch softball?

Bunting is not allowed. The batter must make a full swing. If a bunt or chop is attempted, the batter can be called out.

Can you steal bases in slowpitch softball?

Stealing bases is generally not allowed. Runners can only advance once the batter has hit the ball.

How many positions are there in slowpitch softball?

Slowpitch softball includes ten positions: pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, and four outfielders. This contrasts with fastpitch softball, which typically only has three outfielders.

Shop Our Selection of Fastpitch and Slowpitch Softball Equipment at Baseball Monkey

Whether you're gearing up for a competitive fastpitch game or looking to enjoy a relaxed game of slowpitch, Baseball Monkey has all the softball equipment you need. With our extensive selection of bats, gloves, and softballs, you can find the perfect gear tailored for either variation. Browse our full selection of fastpitch and slowpitch softball equipment today and enhance your game.