An illegal pitch is a pitch that is not in the strike zone. In softball, the batter must have at least one foot in contact with the pitcher before the ball leaves his hand. If he does not have at least one foot in touch with the pitcher, it is considered an illegal pitch and must be called by the umpire.

An illegal pitch is a pitch that is either too high or too low. Illegal pitches are considered to be balls and strikes, as well as other pitches. They do not count as strikes or balls.

There are two types of illegal pitches in softball:

  1. A pitch thrown by the defense is not in accordance with the batter’s plate approach. This is known as a “wild pitch” because it’s hard to control.
  2. A pitch that is thrown from an illegal position. This can be moved or changed during the game but must be declared before it is thrown.

A glove holding a softball.

Softball pitching rules

Here are the rules for softball pitching. Breaking these rules can render the pitch illegal. Sometimes, it’s up to the discretion of the umpire to call a pitch illegal.

  • One foot must touch the pitcher’s plate while pitching.
  • There is a particular position that the pitcher must be in. This position involves their hands, feet, and hips. If the pitcher violates this position, the pitch becomes illegal.
  • If the catcher is not in the right position, the pitch can be made illegal.
  • Doing an overhand pitch is not allowed in softball, unlike baseball.
  • Simulating a pitch but not throwing the ball is an illegal pitch.
  • Hands should be brought together before the pitch. The hands should be visible to the umpire.
  • Violating the step/stride rule, delivery rule, or windup rule can render a pitch illegal.
  • Interrupting the pitch deliberately or other actions that lead to the ball bouncing, rolling, or dropping can also make the pitch illegal.

Apart from the pitcher, other players also need to be in the proper legal positions. The pitch can be made illegal if one of the players is not in place. This includes all the infielders and outfielders in their correct positions from when the pitcher steps on the plate to the point when the ball is released.

Can you hit an illegal pitch in softball?

Illegal pitches can be hit. If a pitch is illegal, play isn’t stopped instantly. Two things can happen if an illegal pitch is made:

  1. The umpire gives a dead-ball signal that stops play - this only happens when the pitch is not released.
  2. If, however, the pitch is released - even though it was an illegal pitch, the umpire lets the play develop. If the pitch is not contacted, then the signal is given later. But what if the pitch is hit?

If the batter hits the ball, advances safely to the first base, and all other baserunners advance one base (at least), the pitch is legal. In this case, all play stands, and the pitch is not considered illegal.

If the batter hits the illegal pitch but fails to reach the first base or another player fails to advance one base, the offensive team’s coach can take a call. The coach can either choose to accept the play’s result or the standard ball-on-batter effect.

The batter is awarded the first base, and all baserunners advance one base each if either of these two happens during the play of an illegal pitch:

  • The ball hits the batter without the batter taking a swing
  • If it’s ball four

What is the penalty for an illegal pitch in softball?

The penalty for hitting an illegal pitch is no out, and the batter can hit another pitch. However, if there are two outs when hitting an illegal pitch, there would be two strikes, and nobody on base for that ball hit.

The penalty for an illegal pitch is a ball called by the umpire. If there is a third strike on the batter’s at-bat, the batter will automatically be out. This can happen if he makes contact with the ball before it has been released from his hand (he cannot swing at it).

The penalty for an illegal pitch in softball is a ball and batter at first base. The batter may not advance to second base but can be put out if he does. If a player hits a fair ball that is hit out of the infield, it counts as a strike even if the catcher or shortstop catches it. If a player hits a foul ball out of the infield, it counts as a strike, even if caught by the catcher or shortstop.

If the batter-runner is called out for interference (by hitting a fielder with his bat) or obstruction (by throwing his bat at a base), he loses his right to advance to first base. This means that no one may be put out while the inning continues unless there are two outs and no runners on base.

In conclusion

It’s the collective job of the entire offensive team to ensure that every pitch is legal. Illegal pitching, when done deliberately, also risks disqualifications from pitching, the round, or the whole game.

Different plays unfold differently during an illegal pitch. Though there are many rules, not all umpires and leagues have the same ones regarding what constitutes an illegal pitch.

As such, it’s best to follow best practices and do a mental check before each pitch. Are all fielders in the right positions? Is the catcher in the right position? Have you taken the signal correctly? Have you shown your hands together to the umpire before pitching? Are your feet touching the plate? And so on.

Learning to do perfect pitches comes with time. There’s no need to rush it.