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Softball vs Baseball – Key Differences Between the Two Sports

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There are lots of obvious differences in softball vs baseball, but what are the main differences between fastpitch softball and baseball that are not as easy to see?

What are the key differences between baseball and softball? The big ones are the size of the field, as the softball field is much smaller. Game length in softball is seven innings vs nine innings in baseball, and pitchers pitch overhand in baseball off an elevated mound, whereas softball pitchers throw underhand on a flat mound. A softball field never has infield grass (called a skinned diamond) whereas baseball fields at higher levels always have infield grass.

But, with that quick definition out of the way, let’s not forget the tremendous amount of strategy used at the higher levels to win games. Players use lots of nuanced, difficult-to-notice skills, mentally and physically, that separate them from their peers. In this detailed article on the differences between the two sports, former pro pitcher Dan Blewett explains the basic differences and the more complex differences that really set both apart.

What are the key differences between baseball and softball?  The big ones are the size of the field, as the softball field is much smaller. Game length in softball is seven innings vs nine innings in baseball, and pitchers pitch overhand in baseball off an elevated mound, whereas softball pitchers throw underhand on a flat mound. A softball field never has infield grass (called a skinned diamond) whereas baseball fields at higher levels always have infield grass.

Base Path and Field Dimensions in Softball vs Baseball

Another key difference between baseball and softball is the base paths and field dimensions.

a regulation baseball field
A regulation baseball field

In baseball, the base paths are 90 feet long and the field dimensions are much larger than in softball, with a regulation outfield fence distance of 330ft down the foul lines and 400ft to center field. There is much more ground to cover for fielders in baseball.

softball field vs baseball field

In softball, the base paths are only 60 feet long and the field dimensions are smaller. Recommended field dimensions in softball are a minimum of 190ft down the lines and 235ft to dead center. The field dimensions in baseball vs softball is a huge difference.

Number of Players on the Field in Softball vs Baseball

One final key difference between these two sports is the number of players on the field. In baseball, there are nine players on the field at all times. In fastpitch softball there are also nine players on the field.

However, in slow pitch softball, there are ten players on the field at all times. Watch my video below about softball positions for more.

Slap Hitters Exist in Softball but Not Baseball

In baseball, slap hitting is not really a thing. But in softball, it is a very common hitting style, especially for speedy lead-off hitters. Slap hitters try to hit the ball hard on the ground so that they can get on base and then steal second or third.

They also try to bunt a lot to move runners over. For more on slap hitting in softball, watch my video below.

Games are 9 innings in Baseball versus 7 innings in Softball

The length of the game is also different between baseball and softball.

A regulation baseball game is played for nine innings, while a regulation softball game is only seven innings long.

Ball Size in Softball vs Baseball

A softball is larger than a baseball. A regulation softball is about 12 inches in circumference and weighs 6.7-7.3 ounces. It’s also an optic yellow color.

A regulation baseball is about 9 inches in circumference and weighs a more uniform 5 ounces and is white in color with red laces. This is a big difference as the smaller size of a baseball greatly increases throwing speed and batted ball speed in baseball compared to softball.

Youth softball players, however, will use a reduced size softball (11 inch diameter) at the early levels (usually below 10 years old) before graduating to the full sized (12 inch) softball at 10U or so.

Fielding Face Masks Are Worn in Softball but Not Baseball

Because softball pitchers/infielders are so much closer to the batter, face masks are often worn on defense. This is not the case in baseball as the pitchers/infielders are much further away from the batter, though batted ball speeds are much higher.

Because reaction time is so important in protecting oneself from line drives, many softball players continue to choose face masks, which is a reasonable choice. In baseball, only the pitcher would realistically need protection, as the first and third basemen (the next two closest players) are not in danger of getting hit with even the hardest line drives.

Softball Uses a “Skinned Diamond”

The infield in softball is made completely of dirt, whereas the infield in baseball has infield grass, with it cut out to a dirt area where the fielders stand.

The skinned diamond is one big difference between these two sports. It can be a factor in how balls bounce and roll as well as how fielders play defense.

Baseball has a Raised Pitching Mound. Softball Does Not

softball vs baseball field

In baseball, the pitcher throws from a raised mound that is 18 feet in diameter and ten inches high and 60 feet 6 inches away from the plate. In softball, the pitcher throws from a flat surface that is only 43 feet from home plate.

Baseball Pitchers Throw Overhand. Softball Pitchers Throw Underhand.

In baseball, pitchers throw overhand. In softball, pitchers throw underhand from a flat surface. This marks one of the most significant differences in baseball vs softball.

softball pitching underhand

This difference in throwing motion makes a big difference in how hard the ball is thrown as well as how effective off-speed pitches are. Baseball pitchers can throw up to 105 mph and the break and shape of their off-speed pitches (anything slower than a fastball) is different than a softball pitcher in fastpitch. In fastpitch, women can pitch at speeds up to about 75 mph, with men reaching into the mid-80s.

Youth Baseball Uses Progressively Larger Field Sizes

 Baseball, players start out at 8 years old playing on smaller, “little league sized fields with reduced dimensions. The field increases in size in steps until age 14, when players play at the full, regulation 60’6” pitching mound and 90′ base field size.

Because the softball field is smaller, they do not do this, and youth players play on essentially the same size field as college or pro players.

Baseball Baserunners Can Lead off. Softball Players Cannot.

fastest player on softball field

In baseball, runners can “lead off” before the pitcher throws the ball. This means they can take a few steps towards the next base to get a head start if the batter hits the ball. In softball, runners cannot lead off and must stay on their bases until the pitcher delivers the ball.

What Key Differences Did I Miss?

So those are some key differences between baseball and softball. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other blog posts for more information on all things baseball and softball. Thanks for reading!

So those are some of the key differences between baseball and softball! Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to check out our other blog posts for more information on all things baseball and softball. Thanks for reading!

Learn The Core Softball Rules below in this video

If you’re new to either sport, check out my explainer video on rules below. And, learn more about the rules of baseball here.

Learn More About Basic Softball Throwing Skills in my Free Webinar

Go here to sign up for the webinar and get my free weekly softball emails with new videos, articles and other free helpful content.

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