The pitch officially begins and cannot be discontinued once the hands have separated after coming together. The pitching motion consists of the start of the pitch, windup, step/stride, and delivery. See the companion article Pitching Procedures Before Pitch Starts for the proper procedures before the hands separate.
Start of the Pitch and Windup
There is a slight anomaly between the wording of the start of the pitch and the windup phase in the rule book. Although the wording for the windup states: “…begins when the hands come together…” we must be aware that a pitch can still be legally discontinued when the hands are together as long as there has been no movement of the hands while together, indicating the pitcher intent to deliver the pitch. See the article in this same section – Discontinuing a pitch/Stepping off the pitcher’s plate.
The pitcher may use any windup desired providing they do not, after having taken the signal and bringing their hands together:
• Make any motion to pitch without immediately delivering the ball to the batter.
• Separate their hands and then return the ball to both hands.
• Stop and change direction more than twice.
Step/Stride and Delivery
The pitcher must take only one step/stride forward toward home plate as they deliver the pitch. A portion of the stride foot must remain in contact with the ground at all times before beginning the forward step. Once the pitcher has established their stride foot, simply dropping or rocking onto their heel is not a violation. It is legal to slide the pivot foot forward or across the pitcher’s plate provided contact with the pitcher’s plate is maintained. Physical contact with the pitcher’s plate may be lost if all of the following apply:
• The pivot foot is in contact with the pitcher’s plate when the pitcher turns, twists, or bends their pivot foot
• If the pivot foot has not reduced the distance to home plate
• The pivot foot must remain in contact with the ground; however, rocking onto either the toe or heel is allowed.
Leaping is not allowed. The pitcher may not become airborne on the initial drive from the pitcher’s plate. The pivot foot must slide/drag on the ground. The pitcher is not allowed to hop or drag to a replant (crow hop), gain a second starting point, and push off their pivot foot. Once having lost contact with the pitcher’s plate, the pivot foot may trail on the ground but may not bear weight again until the pitch is released.
The delivery phase of the pitch begins when the hands separate and ends with the release of the pitch. In delivering the ball to the batter, the pitcher must comply with the following:
• Once the hands have separated and the pitching arm begins the clockwise motion that will result in the release of the pitch, not more than 1½ revolutions of the pitching arm may occur.
• The pitcher’s step/stride to the batter must be continuous.
• The pitch shall be released underhand and the hand shall travel below the hip.
• The release of the pitch and follow-through of the hand and wrist must be forward.
• The pitcher may not make another arm revolution after releasing the ball.
• The pitcher shall not deliberately drop, roll or bounce the ball in order to prevent the batter from hitting the pitch.
• The stride foot must land on or within the lines of the pitcher’s lane.
For any violations of the of the start, windup, step, stride, or delivery of the pitch – delayed dead ball is signaled and illegal pitch enforced.
Stride foot lands outside the pitcher’s lane:
Ball Dropped During Pitch
If the pitcher did not deliberately drop, roll, or bounce the ball, the effect for a pitch dropped during its delivery varies based on when it happens.
• The pitcher drops the ball before their hands have come together and then separated. The ball is live and there is no penalty. The base runner(s) may advance with liability to be put out.
• Ball accidentally slips from the pitcher’s hand during the act of delivering the pitch. If the batter does not have a reasonable opportunity to hit the pitch, a defensive player may retrieve it, the ball is live, a ball is awarded to the batter, and the base runner(s) may advance with liability to be putout.
• If the batter would have had a reasonable opportunity to hit the pitch but the defensive player retrieves it, obstruction is ruled, the ball is dead ; the batter and all other base runners are awarded one base, whether forced or not.
Quick Pitch and No Pitch
A quick pitch, intended to catch the batter off balance or otherwise unprepared to bat, shall be ruled to be “No pitch.” The ball is dead, and all subsequent action on that pitch is canceled.
“No pitch” shall be declared and the ball is dead when:
• The pitcher pitches while play is suspended.
• A base runner is legitimately off base (namely, after a foul ball), and the pitcher fails to allow sufficient time for the base runner to return.
• If a player violates the time-between-pitch rule and that causes their opponent to also violate the rule.
• The batter is hit by a pitch that has not yet reached the front line of the batter’s box, and is not judged as having been able to enter the strike zone, assuming they did not swing or attempt to bunt.
• The pitcher stops or hesitates in their delivery as a result of the batter stepping out of the box, holding up their hand or using any other action as if requesting time.
• A player or coach commits any act (that is, calls “Time” or employs any similar word or phrase) while the ball is live and in play for the obvious purpose of trying to make the pitcher deliver an illegal pitch. A warning is given to the offending team. A repeat of any such act by any member of the team that has been warned shall result in the violator(s) being ejected from the game.
“No pitch” shall be declared and the ball is delayed- dead when a base runner is called out for leaving their base before release of the pitch. At the conclusion of the play, if the defensive head coach does not select the result of the play, “No Pitch” is declared, the offending base runner is out, the batter is returned to the batter’s box and other base runners returned to the bases occupied at the time of the pitch unless superseded by another violation.